Thursday, August 2, 2012

Highly effective -v- effective

What separates effective teachers from highly effective teachers, we were asked today at the teacher orientation.  We discussed this in small groups.  We talked about knowing each student, loving what you do, seeing education not simply as a job but a way of life, a sense of commitment, empathy, and so on.  But none of these were right. You could be all of these things and still only effective.  It seems the biggest predictor of effectiveness is absenteeism (or rather the lack of it).

A study from Harvard in 2007 looked at the factors that affect student performance.  Principals were asked to give a rating for their teachers on how effective they were, and at the same time a record was kept of the number of days a teacher was absent.  The study from Harvard showed that attendance in the classroom, being there every day with the students, was a better predictor of student achievement that the principal's rating of his or her teachers.  The study also found that an absent child learns just as much as a child with a substitute teacher.  What this means is that the study showed that when a teacher is absent, it's just as effective to simply ask the students to stay at home!

What conclusions do we draw from this and what are the implications?  The study shows that the teacher in the classroom is the single most powerful way of promoting student growth.  It's shown to be 6 times more effective than any other single factor.  As a result the leadership team at school have made a commitment:  no teacher will be pulled out of his or her class this year unless there is absolutely no alternative.  In return we also need to make a commitment.  Our commitment is that we will make every one of those minutes that we are there count.

Photo Credit:  Waiting Time by Philip Edmondson, 2007 AttributionNoncommercial 


  1. Totally understand this Maggie, could you please forward me the reference of the article? Does your new role change the amount of classroom contact you'll have this year? So glad to hear you're enjoying your orientation - sounds inspirational!

  2. Hi Dave, I will send the link to your email address. My role this year is non-teaching, but I will be doing an independent learning session with each class in Grades 3 - 5 (9 classes in total) once every 8 days in conjunction with our librarian. This is basically to support students who have decided to do independent research on a subject of their choice.