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William McKenzie: What makes good teachers effective?


The following ran in the Jan. 23, 2012, edition of the Dallas Morning News. David Chard, dean of SMU's Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, provided expertise for this story.

January 26, 2012

By William McKenzie

If you have a child in a public school, you may want to look at a study that has set the education world abuzz this month. More than look at it, you may want to ask your child’s principal or superintendent what they plan on doing with the information.

Harvard and Columbia researchers discovered that quality teachers impact their students not only immediately, but over a lifetime. Those with good teachers end up earning higher incomes, getting college degrees and avoiding teen pregnancy. (To read the report, go to

Intuitively, the data makes sense. Most of us can point to a super teacher who impacted our lives. I still remember the expectations that Thelma Nelson and Rutha Cooper created in their classrooms.

But what is effective teaching? That’s the question.

 Fortunately, numerous people and institutions are searching for the answer — or answers. The White House is pushing effective teaching. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a project devoted to quality instruction. And the George W. Bush Institute is spearheading a national effort to develop education leaders.

David Chard, dean of Southern Methodist University’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, is part of that conversation. He wrote recently in this newspaper, “High-quality teachers must have two things: knowledge of content and effective instructional strategies.”

I called him last week to learn more about these essentials, and to see how schools, districts and states can develop them in more teachers.

Chard started by explaining that states highly regulate teacher preparation to ensure that classrooms have enough instructors. By setting minimum standards, states can be certain that they will have enough teachers....