None of the many factors influencing student outcomes in U.S. classrooms are as crucial as teachers. Demand for highly qualified teachers makes this an exciting time in the teaching profession. Educators with the proper training play a critical role in student success in the short and long term.

The influence of well-trained teachers highlights the growing opportunity for educators to seek professional development certification or graduate degrees. They benefit from furthering their education in important specialties such as English as a Second Language and Curriculum and Instruction.

What Makes a Good Teacher?

Recent research has shown that high school teachers who majored or minored in a specific subject are more likely to have students become college graduates. The results indicate that performance is a collective measure of a school and that students benefit from a system that emphasizes teacher education and student development and learning over time.

The study involved 6,000 students and their teachers nationwide, including those who majored or minored in mathematics. The students exhibited higher achievement in math in the short term and were more likely to attend college later.

RAND Corporation, a global policy think tank and nonprofit research organization, studied the impact of various factors on student outcomes. Their research determined that teachers matter more than any other aspect of schooling regarding student achievement. “Research suggests that, among school-related factors, teachers matter most,” the study authors wrote. “When it comes to student performance on reading and math tests, teachers are estimated to have two to three times the effect of any other school factor, including services, facilities, and even leadership.”

The Importance of Teacher Preparation

Given the significant influence of teachers on student outcomes, policymakers, and academic institutions prioritize teacher education as they develop a deeper understanding of what makes a good teacher. The U.S. Department of Education’s current plans for supporting the teaching profession focuses on three areas. One of them is supporting educators’ professional development. The other two are recruiting diverse, highly qualified teachers and investing in the retention of quality teachers.

Supporting educators’ professional development helps ensure students receive a high-quality education. Professional development includes lifelong learning, like certificates in specific subjects and graduate degrees in various teaching disciplines. Part of the effort by the Department of Education involves encouraging teachers to pursue further education, specifically in bilingual and special education.

Ongoing teacher education keeps teachers prepared for an evolving and expanding profession.

Merrimack College’s Graduate Degree Programs in Education

Graduates from Merrimack College’s online degree programs in English as a Second Language and Curriculum and Instruction are ready to take on leadership roles in these crucial areas.

The English as a Second Language program is approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and aligned with the Massachusetts Professional Standards for Teachers and Subject Matter Knowledge requirements. The program prepares graduates to earn their Initial License in Massachusetts to serve linguistically and culturally diverse students in PreK-6 classrooms.

The Curriculum and Instruction graduate degree covers various education-related topics, including diversity and social justice, special education, and English language learning. Students complete the course with a self-designed capstone project. Graduate students expand their knowledge in subject matter, curriculum design, instructional strategies, and observation and assessment. They also develop better communication skills and hone their ability to collaborate with students’ families and the greater community.

Earning a graduate degree boosts a teacher’s career and may increase their salary earnings. It also benefits students in their classroom who reap the rewards of an educator with specialized knowledge in their subject area.