Newsletter 148 - Teacher Performance and its Impact on Learning

Thomas L. Good (University of Arizona) & Alyson L. Lavigne (Roosevelt University) wrote an article on “Teacher Performance Stability” for the Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 23 No. 2.


“Morgan, Hodge, Trepinski, and Anderson (2014) have written a useful article providing data to demonstrate both the low stability of teacher performance and teacher effectiveness over time. Their work assumes additional potential value in that it studied the effects of 132 teachers over five years using measures of teacher performance (observation ratings) and teacher effectiveness (standardized achievement tests), with assessments in multiple curriculum subjects.

The authors found a weak relationship between an observational measure of teaching performance and standardized measures of student achievement. This complements others’ recent reports of low correlations between other observational measures and student achievement (Cohen, in press; Kane, Kerri, & Pianta, 2014).

The article confirms what we have known for some time—teacher effects on student achievement have limited stability. These findings underscore the need to build upon and expand the dependent measures we use to define and understand good teaching. After all, as we have noted (Lavigne & Good, 2014; in press) good teaching involves much more than increasing students’ scores on standardized achievement tests”.

Concluding Remarks

  • Is it reasonable to assume that teachers and teaching should be stable?
  • Today’s simple policy orientation is that we can identify good teachers and reward them and identify poor teachers and remediate them or terminate them.
  • Unfortunately, policymakers have not considered these assumptions carefully including the lack of teacher stability over consecutive years.  When we apply this knowledge to simulations of high-stakes decision-making, a significant number of teachers are misclassified (Guarino, Reckase, & Wooldridge, 2012; Schochet & Chiang, 2010).
  • Effective teachers are fired and ineffective ones and rewarded.
  • The costs of these misclassifications to teachers, schools, students are insurmountable.
  • If researchers want to understand those teacher actions that relate to student achievement, they need to be very sure that they are studying teachers who have stable performance and effects.
  • However, from research presented by Brophy in 1973 to research presented by Berliner in 2014, we know that such teachers are not common (recall the Brophy, 1973, reported that 14% of highly effective teacher and 14% of low effective teachers held their rating over 3 consecutive years).

Berliner (2014) aptly summarizes the issue of teacher stability,

  • Although hard to ferret out in their “pure” form as an independent main effect, teacher effects on student achievement exist, and they are likely to be strong enough for us all to worry about who teaches our children and what their training has been.
  • There does seem to be a small percentage of teachers who show consistency no matter what classroom and school compositions they deal with. Those few teachers who have strong and consistent positive effects on student outcomes, we should learn from and reward.
  • And, those few teachers who have strong negative effects on student outcomes need to be helped or removed from classrooms. But the fundamental message from the research is that the percentage of such year-to-year, class-to-class, and school-to-school effective and ineffective teachers appears to be much smaller than is thought to be the case.
  • Perhaps one direction for future research is an examination of the patterns that Berliner (2014) addresses, with a focus on when and why stability should be expected.
  • Given that the majority of teachers do not fall into stable patterns, as traditionally defined, the field might benefit from further considering our expectations for reasonable stability of professional practice.
  • Further, future research should build upon and expand the dependent measures we use to define/understand good teaching. After all, good teaching involves much more than increasing students’ scores on standardized achievement tests.
  • Good teaching includes helping students to become better problem finders and problem solvers, as well as encouraging student civility, social responsibility, and much more (Lavigne & Good, in press).
  • It is prudent to recall that as recently as the late 60’s teachers were not considered to have much impact on students’ achievement and that students’ success in schools was primarily determined by student and family variables.
  • If we look using good research procedures, we may well find evidence that some aspects of teaching and their consequences on students are more enduring than teacher effects on standardized achievement scores.

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