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Retaining Teacher Talent

Report 3. Convergence and Contradictions in Teachers’ Perceptions of Policy Reform Ideas

How Can We Learn What More Effective Teachers Think?

Determining the best indicators of teacher effectiveness to identify the most accomplished teachers is difficult enough. Clearly, multiple indicators and sources of evidence are necessary to build a credible measure of teacher effectiveness. The next challenge is supporting those more effective teachers adequately to maximize and extend their impact on students as well as retain them in the classroom (see Hassel & Hassel, 2009, for a discussion of enhancing teacher “reach”).

In an attempt to understand how more effective teachers might differ from less effective teachers in their attitudes toward the profession and their schools, we used factor analysis and a priori notions of what it means to be “effective” to divide teachers’ responses into two groups: “self-perceived effective teachers” (n = 292) and “all other teachers” (n = 598).

Self-perceived effective teachers answered four items in the following ways:

  • They reported that the subject matter test scores of their students increased “a lot” from the beginning of the year (versus “increased somewhat,” “did not increase,” or “decreased somewhat”).
  • They chose the statement, “Good teachers can lead all students to learn, even those from poor families or [those who] have uninvolved parents” as being closer to their view than the statement, “It is too hard for even good teachers to overcome these barriers.”
  • They were either very or somewhat confident that most of their students will learn the skills and knowledge they were supposed to by the end of the year.
  • They reported being very or somewhat confident that they could turn around their hardest to reach students by the end of the year.

Such teachers, it turned out, also were significantly more likely to believe that the effort students make is mainly determined by what teachers do to motivate them rather than by the level of motivation students bring to the classroom (74 percent of self-perceived effective teachers versus 52 percent of all other teachers). In addition, self-perceived effective teachers were more likely to believe that their students can go to college, given the right supports (46 percent agree strongly versus 36 percent). They also were more likely to say that they usually were able to differentiate their instruction for diverse learners (81 percent versus 69 percent) and create high-quality lesson plans (70 percent versus 57 percent).

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