Outstanding teacher skills align with achievement by secondary students in English classes

January 21, 2002

WASHINGTON, - Student achievement in reading, writing and English is higher among middle and high school students in response to skills their teachers possess. Researcher Judith Langer of the University at Albany, State University of New York and her team compare student performance in 25 schools, some of which demonstrated higher literacy achievement levels than their demographically comparable counterparts.

Increased performance, Langer notes, is measured by students' engagement in thoughtful reading, writing and discussion, use of knowledge and skills in new situations, and performance on reading and writing assessment, including high-stakes testing.

This study of English instruction examines both higher performing and more typical schools and appears in the winter issue of the American Educational Research Journal, published by the American Educational Research Association. Researchers examined underlying principles, beliefs, and approaches in individual classrooms instead of focusing on basic content and form of instruction.

"None of the schools we studied were dysfunctional, and none of the teachers were considered to be other than good....Although each of the higher performing schools had its own distinctive emphasis, all were marked by active and engaged students and teachers in academically rich classrooms....Each school managed to create an effective learning environment in which students had opportunities to think with, about, and through English, both as a vehicle for getting things done and as an object of study in its own right," Langer states.

After evaluating 88 classes in Florida, New York, California and Texas over a period of two years each, the SUNY researchers show that students who achieve at a higher level of literacy than might be expected, benefit from their teachers' skills in classroom instruction. Langer identifies six approaches that contribute to achievement, regardless of a school's characteristics or demographics.

She offers the following practices used by the most skilled practitioners as principles for effective teaching and examples of outstanding instruction: "In the most successful schools, there was always a belief in students' abilities to be able and enthusiastic learners," Langer says. "They believed all students can learn and that they, as teachers, could make a difference."

This research was supported by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education.
Editor's Note: Judith Langer, Distinguished Professor, University at Albany, State University of New York, and director, Center on English Learning and Achievement (CELA), can be reached at

CELA is the federally supported research and development center that conducts research dedicated to students' English and literacy achievement in schools across America. To obtain a complete copy of the journal article, please contact AERA's communications and outreach at 202-223-9485 or outreach@aera.net.

The American Educational Research Association (AERA), a professional society that represents more than 23,000 educators who conduct research and evaluation in education, offers a comprehensive program of scholarly publications, training, fellowships, and meetings to disseminate research findings and improve the profession. Founded in 1916, AERA is based in Washington, D.C.

American Educational Research Association

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