What makes a good teacher?

Short answer: It’s anybody’s guess, until you see them in action.

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Interesting article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives

A couple of economic researchers chased after a Holy Grail: “Searching for Effective Teachers”.

They reviewed a stack of studies, conducted a few new ones and drew conclusions about teacher recruitment in public schools.

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Some of their conclusions are conventional, and some may surprise you …

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Conclusions:

A McKinsey Report argues that  too few teacher are drawn from the top 1/3 of their college classes.

English translation: teachers aren’t smart enough.

The remedy: boost pay too attract better talent.

The JEP authors respectfully disagree.

They could find no evidence that a high college GPA is a predictor of teacher effectiveness.

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Case in point: they cite a few studies that looked at Teach for America – a program that I’ve long heralded.

The conclusion: well-credentialed TFA teachers were no more effective than “regular” teachers in reading & writing courses … and only slightly better in science and math courses.

The rationale: TFA teachers were stronger academically but lacked a background in childhood learning and didn’t connect as well with students.

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More broadly, the authors could find no strong objective hiring criteria that reliably predicted teacher effectiveness.

Not GPA, not school, not major … nothing.

And, they concluded that interviews done by administrators didn’t fare any better.

Some candidates who had strong interviews performed poorly on the job; some who were marginal in interviews became top performers.

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So, what to do?

The authors advise casting a wide net when hiring, but put new teachers on a short leash (with tight supervision and frequent reviews) … and then cull the herd quickly when it becomes evident that a teacher isn’t cutting it.

They argue that a teacher’s effectiveness begins to plateau after the 2nd year … so if they don’t perform in the first 2 series, bid them farewell

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P.S. The principle may apply outside of education.

I always considered myself a good, tough interviewer.

Looking back, I figure I was wrong about half the time.

Flip a coin.

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One Response to “What makes a good teacher?”

  1. dkabell Says:

    Gee guess I was wrong about “good” teachers, but wait, this is a study, and we know how accurate studies are, remember? So I am not convinced. Here’s another attribute – are “tough” teachers good teachers? Think back on how much you learned from the tough teachers you had versus those who had lower goals/expectations. My own experience is that when you “push” students you will be surprised at the level of achievement.

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