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  • The Qualities of a Productive Teacher…It’s No Longer Just Test Scores

    [caption id="attachment_3212" align="alignleft" width="293" caption="What Makes A Great Teacher?"]Good Qualities [/caption]

    Nancy Folbre, an economics professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst, discusses what makes a productive teacher in her New York Times Business Day article. Years ago, teachers were measured on how successful their students did on tests, which is still a factor today, but there are many other components that are more relevant.

    If you watch the documentary “Waiting for Superman” or read Steven Brill’s “Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools,” you will learn that many advocates of school reform think they know how to increase teacher productivity: Rate teachers according to their students’ performance on standardized tests and fire those who don’t make the grade.

    But economic theory suggests several reasons why this approach will probably backfire.

    Scores on standardized tests are not an accurate measure of success in later life, because they don’t capture important aspects of emotional intelligence, such as self-control and ability to collaborate with others. The Nobel laureate James Heckman describes noncognitive traits as a crucial component of human capital.

    Indeed, research by the economists Eric Hanushek and Steven Rifkin — both advocates of school reform — indicates that neither teachers’ own test scores when they were students nor their educational credentials explain much of the variation in their students’ outcomes. Why judge teachers narrowly on a set of outcomes that are not even predictive of their own success?

    The most highly promoted evaluation schemes statistically analyze year-to-year changes in individual test scores, yielding an estimate of teacher “value added.” This approach helps control for differences among students for which teachers shouldn’t be held accountable. Still, the results show a high level of random variation and high error rates. Teacher rankings often vary from class to class and year to year.

    Read more at The New York Times Business Day

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