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What Makes a Good Teacher?

Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist's push to ramp up teacher quality in Rhode Island has the feel of a bold and admirable gesture. And with Rhode Island teachers scoring among the worst in the country on a basic skills test at the center of her reform effort, there is something to be said for raising the bar. But test scores, as Malcolm Gladwell of The New Yorker wrote last year, are generally poor predictors of teacher performance.

A group of researchers—Thomas J. Kane, an economist at Harvard’s school of education; Douglas Staiger, an economist at Dartmouth; and Robert Gordon, a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress—have investigated whether it helps to have a teacher who has earned a teaching certification or a master’s degree. Both are expensive, time-consuming credentials that almost every district expects teachers to acquire; neither makes a difference in the classroom. Test scores, graduate degrees, and certifications—as much as they appear related to teaching prowess—turn out to be about as useful in predicting success as having a quarterback throw footballs into a bunch of garbage cans.
Part of a fascinating piece that draws a parallel between great college quarterbacks who flop in the NFL and well-prepared teachers who don't have what it takes to succeed in the classroom. The best instructors have skills that don't show up on a test.
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