What Makes for an ’Irreplaceable’ Teacher?

I just started reading the new the New Teacher Project (TNTP) report The Irreplaceables and there were a couple of statistics in the first couple of pages that really stuck out.

The best teachers focus more on thinking skills and less on memorization. In other words, the teachers who focused less on memorization improved their students’ test scores more than teachers with similar students who focused more on memorizing. This flies in the face of the assertion that teachers are forced to ‘teach to the test’ to improve their students’ test scores in order to meet state and federal accountability benchmarks. The data indicates that the best way for teachers to increase their students’ test scores is to teach them how to think and focus less on rote learning.

Making learning enjoyable is not a hallmark of a highly effective teacher. Another common assertion is that great teachers make learning fun. However, when you actually look at the data, about one-third of the students of the most effective teachers do not say their teacher makes learning enjoyable. Maybe that’s because most of the students of these teachers say their teacher doesn’t let students give up when the work gets hard. In the short run it may not be fun for students to get pushed beyond their comfort zone but in the long term those students will be much happier. So to improve student performance teachers should focus more on challenging and supporting their students than trying to make learning fun.

I am only on page 3 of the report so there is much more to go through but wanted to share with you a couple data points that show that effective teachers improve their students’ test scores by challenging their students and teaching them how to think not by ‘teaching to the test’. Stay tuned for more information about the TNTP report.  – Jim Hull

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