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Better Teachers Make for Stronger Young Readers
Date:4/22/2010

Twins' study shows quality instruction helps kids achieve their potential

THURSDAY, April 22 (HealthDay News) -- Why one child excels in reading while another falters is largely due to his or her innate ability, but a new study finds that good teachers do make a difference.

"Kids have differences, and we're not at all saying that genetics don't matter; in fact, they do. But it's not the whole story," said study author Jeanette Taylor, an associate professor in psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

When kids are placed in the best environments for learning how to read, "it really gives them a chance to bring out their best and to reach their potential," she explained. By contrast, low-quality teaching thwarts kids' reading potential.

The study is published in the April 23 issue of Science.

Richard K. Olson, a professor of psychology and a fellow of the Institute for Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, co-authored a similar study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology in February. Using twins in the same and different classrooms to examine early literacy achievement, Olson and colleagues concluded that "classroom effects," including teacher quality, account for 8 percent of their differences in performance.

Olsen said the Florida study is different because it doesn't quantify how much of the variability in student performance is accounted for by variability in teachers or classrooms. Rather, it examines the degree to which "genetic influence on student performance seems to vary as a function of how well or how much gain is made in the overall classroom," he said. "It's an interesting perspective, an interesting take on the influence of the class environment."

Twins share half or all of their genes, depending on whether they are identical or fraternal. In theory, that means they should achieve similar results in
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