How can we improve teacher quality? Malcolm Gladwell’s article on teachers

Malcolm Gladwell tackles the controversial issue of hiring teachers in a new New Yorker piece Most Likely to Succeed

“students of a very bad teacher will learn, on average, half a year?s worth of material in one school year. The students in the class of a very good teacher will learn a year and a half?s worth of material.”

In other words, a very good teacher is three times or 200% more effective than a very bad one.

Since good teachers cost the same as bad ones, the article suggests that we need to figure out a way to find good teachers. The problem, according to Gladwell, is that this is an impossible task.

The article compares NFL scouts’ efforts to finding a star quarterback to that of school administrators finding star teachers.

“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.”

Good teachers, Gladwell writes, have the ability to manage classroom behavior and to provide direct, personal feedback to students.

He concludes by suggesting that schools should consider hiring teachers using the same strategy financial service firms use to seek out effective financial advisers–hire four trainees and assume that just one will succeed.

However, schools already hire several new teachers a year who are essentially trainees. Plus, a huge percentage of all teachers leave the profession — for a variety of reasons — after just a few years.

Next to hiring good teachers, we believe schools should focus on using tools that give all teachers the opportunity to have the same results that a good teacher has. Tools such as Merit Software.

Merit has been the subject of independent rigorous research. In a recent study, with random pupil assignment, 19% more 7th graders and 37% more 6th graders passed their state’s Reading Language Arts test when Merit was used to supplement in-class instruction.

Considering that a good teacher is three times more effective than a bad one, these results are reasonable and attainable for other schools.

It provides frequent, direct personal feedback and in-depth instruction. When used in the classroom, Merit encourages a greater back-and-forth among teachers and students.

Merit is easy for both teachers and students to learn to use. It also frees up teachers’ time to work with struggling students.

In the study mentioned above, teachers used the Punch writing programs–Essay Punch and Paragraph Punch–a great deal. The study indicated that teachers are increasingly effective as the ties between the Punch method and in-class instruction are strengthened. That’s why Book Punch was introduced.

We need to be creative and find hassle-free, cost-effective solutions if we are to improve teacher quality. The old solutions to improve adolescent literacy skills have not worked.

What else do you think we should do?

How can we improve teacher quality? Malcolm Gladwell’s article on teachers

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