- Writing for EdSource, Tara Kini, director of state policy at the Learning Policy Institute, describes ways in which school culture and environment can determine the level of effectiveness of a teacher.
- Teachers with similar skills and experience will likely vary in their effectiveness based on the school environment and the level of support available, Kini contends.
- To accurately judge teacher effectiveness, parents must also look at the strength and stability of school administrators and the teaching pool and examine the support available for teachers at the school.
Kini looks at the issue of teacher effectiveness primarily through the eyes of a parent assessing whether their child has a “good teacher” for the coming year. We all know parents rate teachers and word spreads about which teachers are “good” and which are not.
However, the judging of teacher effectiveness is often subjective, whether it is a school administrator or a parent who is doing the judging. Certainly, test scores provide one method of assessment, but scores cannot always reveal the level of patience and compassion a teacher has or accurately reflect the conditions under which the tests were taken.
A teacher’s effectiveness also changes based on years of experience, life circumstances and the school environment at the time. There is also a question as to whether teacher quality plays a large role in student achievement. Other factors in a student’s life, such as parental support, home environment and economic factors may play a larger role.
However, teacher effectiveness is one element that administrators can impact. Providing opportunities for collaboration and mentoring is an important piece of the puzzle. Teachers also need to feel that they are being supported professionally and can ask for advice without being judged as ineffective. Administrators would also do well to sit down with teachers individually and discover what obstacles they face. Do they have adequate time in their schedule to attend to personal needs? Are they having trouble accessing needed supplies? Is there an interpersonal conflict that needs to be addressed? Sometimes these issues can be simply solved and can increase teacher effectiveness and help schools retain great teachers.