Value-added analysis

Attracting highly skilled professionals to education in this country has been a difficult task. In many countries around the globe, teachers receive a great deal of respect. In Italy, for instance, secondary level teachers are considered “professors.” Unfortunately, many Americans repeat the adage, “Those who can’t do-teach. Those who can’t teach, teach teachers.” Often, methodology professors in college provide more theory than practice, and their subject matter bears little resemblance to actual experience. So, what makes a good teacher? Are “natural” teachers born or trained? Finally, shouldn’t we recognize and reward effective teachers?
Value-added analysis can assist in identifying effective teachers. Using standardized test scores, researchers can quantify the academic performance in a class within an academic year. Over time, comparing these results can indicate how much more effective one teacher is than another. And that difference can be staggering: one full academic year! According to an article by Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blink) that appeared a December issue of The New Yorker, “Teacher effects dwarf school effects: your child is actually better off in a bad school with an excellent teacher than in an excellent school with a bad teacher. Teacher effects are also much stronger than class-size effects. You’d have to cut the average class almost in half to get the same boost that you’d get if you switched from an average teacher to one in the eighty-fifth percentile.” He goes on to explain that both teachers receive the same salary, yet halving class size would result in doubling cost. Thus, ridding schools of bad teachers and providing merit pay for excellent teachers could actually save money!
While teacher styles vary widely, analyzing the methods of excellent teachers can provide some useful information for training new teachers. For example, enthusiasm for the material, attentiveness to student behavior, teacher affect, engagement, movement, language, even humor, can have a huge effect on a lesson. Analyzing videos of excellent teachers can be an effective method for teacher training. Providing additional compensation for master teachers who work with teaching trainees (in addition to their merit pay) would go a long was to making education a respected profession.

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