(Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2007).
Advanced degrees. In her survey of
research, Rice (2003) found that several
studies conducted since the 1970s “have
found no discernible effect of teachers
having a master’s degree or higher on
student achievement” (p. 26). Indeed,
some studies, including the North
Carolina analysis mentioned earlier,
found slightly negative correlations with
teachers’ advanced degrees and student
achievement (Clotfelter et al., 2007).
One possible exception appears to be
high school science and mathematics,
where teachers with subject-specific
master’s degrees are more effective than
those without such degrees (Goldhaber
& Brewer, 1998).
Extensive classroom experience. After
comparing teacher characteristics to
achievement results for more than 1. 3
million Texas students, a team of economists found that first-year teachers “and
to a lesser extent second- and third-year teachers” were less effective than
more experienced teachers (Rivkin,
Hanushek, & Kain, 2005, p. 447).
However, they found little difference
in teacher effectiveness after about five
years of experience. Certainly, many
teachers improve their skills throughout
their careers. Yet on average, after a
few years of teaching, added years of
teaching experience appear to offer little
guarantee of increased effectiveness.
The attributes discussed to this point
can be measured or quantified quite
easily. Savvy principals, however, know
that great teachers also possess many
intangible attributes. Here are a few
intangibles that research links to teacher
Belief that all students can learn. Since
the famous Rosenthal experiment in the
late 1960s, the Pygmalion effect—the
observation that teachers’ expectations
for their students affect how well students learn—has been well documented
Belief in their own abilities. A RAND
study conducted more than 30 years
ago (Armor et al., 1976) found links
between student achievement and
teachers’ sense of efficacy—their belief
in not just their students’ ability to
succeed, but also their own ability as
teachers to help those students succeed.
Ability to connect with students.
Cornelius-White (2007) conducted a
meta-analysis of research on teacher-student relationships and found that
teachers’ warmth, empathy, and “
non-directivity” strongly correlated to higher
levels of student participation, motivation, and achievement.
Advice for Educators
Few teacher candidates are likely to
display all of these attributes when
they first walk through the classroom
door. School leaders must consider,
then, which attributes they can
augment and which they cannot.
They may also need to reexamine the
metrics, explicit or implicit, they use
to select and compensate teachers.
Being credentialed, being experienced,
or holding an advanced degree is no
guarantee of effectiveness. Leaders
must look more deeply, examining
whether teachers have adequate
knowledge of their subjects and
know how to teach them. At the same
time, important intangibles, such as
a teacher’s dispositions and attitudes,
although more difficult to glean from a
résumé, can still be teased out through
interviews and observations of teachers
delivering sample lessons.
A Lesson from the Major Leagues
Any analogy comparing baseball players
to teachers has its flaws. Baseball is, of
course, just a game; in the grand scheme
of things, it matters little who wins or
loses. For students, though, the quality
of their teachers can be the difference
between academic success and failure.
Schools would do well to put as much
careful analysis into selecting their
teachers as major league teams put into
scouting and drafting their players. EL
Armor, D., Conroy-Oseguera, P., Cox, M.,
King, N., McDonnell, L., Pascal, A., et
al. (1976). Analysis of the school preferred
reading programs in selected Los Angeles
minority schools (Report No. R-2007-
LAUSD). Santa Monica, CA: RAND.
Baumert, J., Kunter, M., Blum, W., Brunner,
M., Voss, T., Jordan, A., et al. (2010).
Teachers’ mathematical knowledge, cognitive activation in the classroom, and
student progress. American Educational
Research Journal, 47( 1), 133–180.
Clotfelter, C. T., Ladd, H. F., & Vigdor, J. L.
(2007, January). How and why do teacher
credentials matter for student achievement?
(Working Paper 2). Washington, DC:
National Center for the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research.
Cornelius-White, J. (2007). Learner-centered teacher-student relationships are
effective: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 77( 1), 113–143.
Ferguson, R. F., & Ladd, H. F. (1996). How
and why money matters: An analysis of
Alabama schools. In H. F. Ladd. (Ed.),
Holding schools accountable: Performance-based reform in education (pp. 265–298).
Washington, DC: Brookings Institution
Goldhaber, D., & Brewer, D. (1998). When
should we reward degrees for teachers?
Phi Delta Kappan, 80( 2), 134–138.
Goldhaber, D., & Brewer, D. (2000).
Does certification matter? High school
teacher certification status and student
achievement. Educational Evaluation and
Policy Analysis, 22( 2), 129–145.
Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning. London:
Rice, J. K. (2003). Teacher quality: Understanding the effectiveness of teacher attributes. Washington, DC: Economic Policy
Rivkin, S. G., Hanushek, E. A., & Kain,
J. F. (2005). Teachers, schools, and academic achievement. Econometrica, 73( 2),
Bryan Goodwin is vice president of
communications, McREL, Denver,