Imagine… after years of toiling away at a school you finally get your picture in the paper! Yippee… but then you read the caption:
Over seven years, John Smith’s fifth-graders have started out slightly ahead of those just down the hall but by year’s end have been far behind.
Ouch! It sucks for John Smith, but it could be a revolution for education. Maybe. The LA Times, using data that the school district also has ready access to, has merely proven something everybody else knows – some teachers are good, some are bad.
The statistical analysis the Times used seems fair. They don’t judge on an absolute scale, but instead measure improvement or decline in the same kids as they move from teacher to teacher. The theory… if your students improve on standard tests, you are effective. And the differences can be substantial:
Highly effective teachers routinely propel students from below grade level to advanced in a single year.
Oh… and was it a poor school/rich school thing? Nope. That was one of the other myths this study shot down.
Teachers had three times as much influence on students’ academic development as the school they attend.
The quality of instruction typically varied far more within a school than between schools.
Other myths? Higher paid teachers are more effective. Nope. More trained teachers are more effective. Nope. And more educated teachers are more effective. Nope.
Mostly, it seems, effective teachers engage students. Ineffective ones don’t.
Simple. And something I learned 28 years ago when I learned how to train other soldiers in the Army. I learned that facilities (how about under a tree), equipment (how about we use Smith as a CPR dummy), and how many times I’d actually done it mattered little to getting these soldiers to learn it. What mattered was how interesting and engaging I made it.
I’ll read this LA Times series with interest as they come out. And post on them too. I’m dubious it will help education, whose problems lie mostly in the teachers unions stifling of the educational experience, and at home where many parents are dolts.
But given the trillions being currently wasted, even a little bit of help, could be a big improvement.
Update… I like Mr. Smith’s attitude and wish him the best on making instructional changes:
"Obviously what I need to do is to look at what I’m doing and take some steps to make sure something changes," he said.