How Much of a Difference Do Teachers REALLY Make?

superman-logoAs I begin my 20th year in the field of Education tomorrow, I couldn’t help but reflect on the importance of what we do as educators every single day.

If you are in education, and ever wonder if you really make a difference, let me share some research with you.

In Richard Allington and Patricia Cunningham’s book, “Classrooms that Work: They Can All Read and Write,” the authors point out, “For many children, classroom teachers are their last and best hope for school and life success.” Allington and Cunningham provide research done by Catherine Snow in her book, “Unfulfilled Expectations.” In Snow’s study of schools serving children from low-income families, the research team visited the homes of children and rated the family support available for literacy learning as high, moderate, or low. They also visited the classrooms these children attended and rated the classroom literacy instruction as providing high, moderate, or low support. They then examined the effects of different classroom and home environments on children’s learning. The table below summarizes the impact of two or more years of consistently high-support classroom instruction, a mixed pattern of support high support classroom one year, low support classroom the next), and low-support.¹ ²

Classroom Support

If children come from high-quality classrooms, even if they have low home support, they have 100% chance for success. 100%! So, if you have ever let the words “Their parents don’t help them!” utter from your lips, rethink that thought before you say it again. What are that same child’s chance for success if they have mediocre classroom support with low home support? Their chances for success drop to a whopping 25%!! And, even more alarming, if students come from a classroom with low support and low home support, they have 0% chance for success. ZERO.

So, as you begin this school year, if you’re wondering if you REALLY make a difference, know that you do!

Reflect on what you do, as a classroom teacher, that makes a difference for your students. What sets you apart? Is your classroom a high, mixed, or low support classroom? What can you do to foster a positive home-school connection?

Blessings to you and your students as you begin this new chapter!

Let me know your thoughts!



Allington, Richard, Cunningham, Patricia (1994). Classrooms that Work: They Can All Read and Write (1st Edition). Allyn & Bacon.

Snow, C. E., Barnes, W. S., Chandler, J., Goodman, I. F., & Hemphill, L. (1991). Unfulfilled expectations: Home and school influences on literacy.. Harvard University Press.




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