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Grading Teachers Down Under

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Teacher quality isn't just an American issue: A recently released Australian study has found that students who have poor teachers take twice as long to learn course material as those with strong teachers. “The top 10 percent of teachers achieve in half a year what the bottom ten percent achieve in a full year,” says economist Andrew Leigh of the Australian National University. Leigh spent three years collecting data for the study, tracking 90,000 primary school students and their respective 10,000 teachers. He measured teacher quality by looking at the students’ improvement on standardized tests. Leigh's study also concludes that teacher quality has little to do with experience or qualifications, but rather appears to be related to the individual teacher’s personal drive, curiosity, and ability to relate to students. "Most of the differences between teachers are due to factors not captured on the payroll database," said Leigh. He added that his results could help identify top teachers to send to schools where they are needed most—though his methodology is expected to disputed by Australia's teachers unions.

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Great teachers are hard to find, but a school should do its best to keep them when they have them.

"individual teacher’s personal drive, curiosity, and ability to relate to students. " Hmmm, I wonder how such a thing is measured in a study of 90,000 students. While I appreciate these sorts of characteristics matter to teaching, I have a hard time envisioning such a large scale study that is able to determine such factors except perhaps through teacher surveys. Doesn't a self-survey already bias the data? Meanwhile, how did the study determine that students grew two years in a half year? Do we have the capacity to make such determinations without spending a boat-load of money? I am guessing either this was a very expensive study or claims are being made that cannot actually be drawn from the data. Soundbites like this can be misleading. I wish Edweek would provide links to more study information when posting these kinds of studies.

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