Great teachers

teacher There's a good essay in the Atlantic on what makes a great teacher. Teach for America recruits 4,000 new teachers out of college every year and keeps detailed data on which ones succeed and which don't. This allows them to provide better instruction in the summer cram before they hit the classroom in the fall, and select candidates that are most likely to succeed. This seems like the sort of data that you would expect schools to collect, but because of teachers unions and a lack of competition, most schools and states go out of their way to avoid collecting this sort of data. The most successful predictor of experience in the classroom is the ability to manage and complete a large project in college. Grade point average (especially in the final two years of college) and "leadership experience" are the two most powerful predictors of classroom success. Teachers that report high life satisfaction and high perseverance - Angela Duckworth's "grit" - also did well. Successful teachers are constantly getting feedback, evaluating their teaching style and checking to see if the students are learning. They also expect high performance from their students, and work backwards from that goal to make sure they can get it. The author misses the somewhat obvious point that these traits are valuable in any profession. This means that schools are competing with other industries for good teachers, who probably have opportunities elsewhere. I don't know a finance firm that wouldn't want someone with a good GPA, who demonstrated the ability to manage large projects in college (and is happy with their life to boot). Teaching is an alluring profession, maybe because it's an easy way to gain high status, at least inside the classroom, where 30 or so kids do as you say (and you can run the classroom however you want). But the pay isn't great, and schools are not good at compensating teachers for excellent performance, or at retaining talent. Until they devise more effective pay structures (and Race to the Top, President Obama's $4 billion funding carrot, is helping), great teachers will remain diamonds in the rough.

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