New Report: Teacher Effects on Student Achievement

Posted by on January 25, 2010

Using high- or low-level practices, results are the same

“A little-noticed but unusually detailed study of teaching practices” reported by The Harvard Education Letter “delivers a depressing message you should keep in mind whenever you read anything about raising school achievement,” writes Jay Mathews of The Washington Post. The study from the University of Michigan found marked differences in what teachers in adjoining classrooms were doing, even in schools ruled by comprehensive reform models that dictated how everyone used every hour of the day. According to the study, students in some classrooms may spend the majority of their classroom time on relatively low-level content and skills, while their peers in the class next door spend more time on higher-level content. The startling outcome is that student gains from highest-level practices like examining literary techniques and sharing writing with others were no better than those produced by low-level practices like asking questions that have answers at the back of the textbook chapter. Mathews cautions against despair, however. The data also showed that on average, some reform models did better than others, indicating a path for further study. Since we have long known that teacher practices vary widely, Mathews writes, the best course is to study some of the team-oriented schools that have closed achievement gaps, and “try to figure out why high-end methods don’t work better than low-end.”

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