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Atlantic magazine.

Teach for America’s staffers have discovered that past performance — especially the kind you can measure — is the best predictor of future performance [as a teacher]. Recruits who have achieved big, measurable goals in college tend to do so as teachers. And the two best metrics of previous success tend to be grade-point average and “leadership achievement” — a record of running something and showing tangible results. If you not only led a tutoring program but doubled its size, that’s promising.

Knowledge matters, but not in every case. In studies of high-school math teachers, majoring in the subject seems to predict better results in the classroom. And more generally, people who attended a selective college are more likely to excel as teachers (although graduating from an Ivy League school does not unto itself predict significant gains in a Teach for America classroom). Meanwhile, a master’s degree in education seems to have no impact on classroom effectiveness.

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7 Responses to “From “What Makes A Great Teacher?” in the latest…”

  1. Thomas Says:

    A master of education degree has no impact in the classroom? I’m shocked, SHOCKED!

  2. Dave Stone Says:

    Actually, Thomas, I was surprised to see that a masters in education didn’t LOWER classroom effectiveness.

  3. david foster Says:

    Another interesting (but not surprising) point from the article:

    “They were also perpetually looking for ways to improve their effectiveness. For example, when Farr called up teachers who were making remarkable gains and asked to visit their classrooms, he noticed he’d get a similar response from all of them: “They’d say, ‘You’re welcome to come, but I have to warn you—I am in the middle of just blowing up my classroom structure and changing my reading workshop because I think it’s not working as well as it could.’ When you hear that over and over, and you don’t hear that from other teachers, you start to form a hypothesis.” Great teachers, he concluded, constantly reevaluate what they are doing.”

  4. Bill Gleason Says:

    Great Teachers are great tinkerers…

    One of the best I’ve known used to destroy his notes every year and write new ones.

    The other kept a detailed diary about how each of his classes went. What worked and what didn’t – so that the next year he would do a better job. This guy was also the author of a widely used chemistry textbook.

    Such activities give those of us who are not “naturals” hope. There really is not excuse for not doing at least a decent job teaching.


  5. Matt L Says:

    hmmm. So somebody with a high GPA and a record of excellence in something besides school work turns out to be a great teacher. Aren’t these the same students who excel in Law School/Medical School and make great lawyers and doctors? Who knew?

    (sarcasm/) If only there was some way we could attract excellent students with strong leadership skills to the teaching profession. I wonder what kind of incentives they might need? (\sarcasm)

  6. Bill Gleason Says:

    Aren’t these the same students…?



    Most of the good teachers I know in K-12 do it because they want to make a difference.

    And no, I am not being sarcastic.

  7. david foster Says:

    “I wonder what kind of incentives they might need? (\sarcasm)”

    One of the things that high-quality people look for in employment choices is a reasonable degree of autonomy and the ability to stand or fall based on their own performance. It is hard to imaging anything more contrary to these attributes than the highly-bureaucratized and lock-step environment that exists in the typical public school system.

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