Teacher Effectiveness: How to Develop What Matters Most
Bill Sanders, a teacher effectiveness researcher, gained astonishing insight into the overall outcomes of effective teachers and their students. He found that, among third-grade students who performed similarly academically, those that were subsequently placed with three highly-rated teachers in a row out-performed those students who were placed with three poorly-rated teachers in a row by a 52nd percentile point difference.
The Rand Corporation has even claimed that teacher quality is the single most powerful influence on student achievement, with three times the effect on test scores as any other educational factor.
How do we define effective teachers?
Obviously, teacher quality is important. But how do we define and measure great teachers? Well, according to students, great teachers are those that make learning fun and those that truly care about building personal relationships with their students. Students are more likely to strive for academic success in class when they know that their teacher respects them as a whole person- not just as an academic data point.
Effective teachers foster a sense of community in the classroom where mistakes are used as learning opportunities rather than reasons for ridicule. And, when the teacher is enthusiastic about learning, the students are more likely to feed off of this enthusiasm as well. Additionally, effective teachers set high expectations for all students- they do not group all low-performing students together or call on them less frequently than their high-performing peers.
In the classroom of an effective teacher, every student is treated as an equal, and every student understands that they have the potential to accomplish whatever they set their mind to.
How to improve teacher effectiveness
Unfortunately for many students, great teachers are not in every classroom. This is partially due to the fact that many teachers do not know what skills they should be improving upon, let alone how to improve those skills.
The New Teacher Project found that, in the year 2009, 98% of the teachers out of the 14 evaluated school districts were given a rating of “satisfactory.” This rating system is hardly beneficial to teachers or their students. In the last decade, some school districts have taken it upon themselves to improve teacher rating systems by creating more detailed evaluation systems with room for improvement on every front, even for the most veteran teachers.
For instance, many school districts are now using the updated TES rating system in which five levels- needs improvement, developing, proficient, accomplished, and distinguished are used to evaluate teachers on multiple factors from classroom management, to lesson planning abilities, to teacher involvement in the student community. With this rating system, a genuinely good teacher is rated as “proficient,” implying that there is still much room for growth on the path to becoming a truly outstanding teacher.
It is important to remember that becoming an effective teacher takes both time and effort- teachers don’t become great right away, nor do they become great if they simply slide through the school year without a determined effort to improve every day. But teachers who consistently focus on improving those skills- such as relationship building- that seem to have the highest effect on student achievement, without becoming distracted by the non-essentials- such as a perfectly decorated classroom- are destined to become the teachers that students will thank for the rest of their lives.