Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wall Street Journal Article - Good Teachers are Important


The Gate's Foundation has spent three years (and a lot of money) to prove that good teachers do help students improve (at least on tests). The study used a combination of test results and observations to rank 1,600 of the 3,000 teachers in the study. The next year students were randomly assigned to teachers. It turned out that not only did the students of the highest rated teachers perform the best on standardized tests, but they also scored better on tests that measured higher level thinking.

Some critics have said that the study is flawed and that test scores are not a good measure of teacher effectiveness. Jay P. Green, a professor at the University of Arkansas, even said that observations of teachers are not a reliable indicator of teacher quality.

Now, I am sorry, but are you kidding me, Professor Green? If you can't determine who is an effective teacher by watching them teach, then you are a moron.

There have definitely been times in my career as a teacher that I have thought that I wasn't making a difference. No matter how hard I tried to help students I didn't think that they were improving enough and there was nothing I could do about it. After all, so much of what kids learn comes from their homes. How to pay attention, how to try hard, etc... My first year teaching I was terrified that I was going to be judged by my students' test scores.

But I kept trying. Every day I spent with my students I gave 110%. I couldn't control what happened while my students were at home, but I could control what we did in the classroom.

When our test scores came back the next September, my kids had all shown improvement - dramatic improvement.

I was at a small school so there was only one class of students. These kids had (for the most part) the same family life as the year before, the same friends as the year before and the same life circumstances as the year before. The one thing that had changed was their teacher.

I realize this post sounds like I am saying that I am an amazing teacher and that is why the scores went up so much. This is not the point I am trying to make at all. I made lots of mistakes that first year (I still make lots of mistakes). But I kept trying and was willing to do whatever it took to help my students.

That is what made the difference in my opinion. I wasn't trying to stick to a specific curriculum map or teaching method. Instead, I planned everything around what I saw from my students. If they were having trouble with a particular concept we would keep working with it until they understood it. If one student struggled with something I would work with that one student after school or during recess.

Anyway, I thought that this was an interesting article - although I didn't need a three year study to believe that good teachers help students improve test scores.

Read the article here.

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