Research shows that effective teachers are the most important factor contributing to student achievement. Although curricula, reduced class size, district funding, family and community involvement all contribute to school improvement and student achievement, the most influential factor is the teacher. Choosing effective teachers is critically important for schools trying to improve their performance.
Research in Tennessee revealed that students who were placed with highly effective teachers for three years in a row significantly outperformed comparable students on a mathematics assessment (96th versus 44th percentile). Teacher quality has a lasting effect on student learning. Data from Dallas reveals that a student who has an outstanding teacher for just one year will remain ahead of her peers for at least the next few years. Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well: if a student has an ineffective teacher, the negative effect on her achievement may not be fully remediated for up to three years. A study of third-grade teachers in an urban Virginia school district found that students of teachers ranked in the top quartile of effectiveness score approximately 30 to 40 scale-score points higher than expected on the Virginia Standards of Learning Assessment in English and mathematics, while students of teachers in the bottom quartile scored about 24 to 32 points lower than expected on these tests. It is clear that the common denominator in school improvement and student achievement is the teacher. Therefore, it is critical that schools be able to identify effective teachers during the hiring process.
Educators at the College of William and Mary describe a way to use the characteristics of effective teaching to evaluate teacher candidates. Effective teachers exhibit certain skills and qualifications. These include verbal ability, coursework in pedagogy, knowledge of special-needs students, teacher certification, and content knowledge of the specific subjects to be taught. Personal traits such as a positive and caring attitude, fairness and respect for students, enthusiasm, dedication and reflective teaching contribute to these teachers’ effectiveness in the classroom. Just as important are classroom organization and classroom management skills. Instructional planning, allocating time for academics, keeping students engaged, using appropriate instructional strategies, correctly sequencing instruction, questioning strategies, monitoring learning and differentiating learning for individual students are all important characteristics of an effective teacher. Educators at the College of William and Mary have developed a chart of these characteristics that they use to help select teachers. This chart suggests what to look for in an applicant’s portfolio, what questions to ask in an interview to measure each skill, and what to listen for in the applicant’s response.
“Hiring the Best Teachers,” Educational Leadership, Volume 60, Number 8, May 2003, pp. 48-52.
Published in ERN September 2003 Volume 16 Number 6