Federal Report Roundup

Study Links Teacher Attributes to Effectiveness

By Stephen Sawchuk — November 25, 2008 1 min read

Districts and schools wishing to hire more-effective teachers could benefit from collecting a broader set of information on their candidates, concludes a new working paper by several well-known teacher-quality researchers.

The report, released by the Cambridge, Mass.-based National Bureau of Economic Research, studies certain characteristics of teachers that are not typically examined by districts—such as general cognitive ability, content knowledge, personality traits, and feelings of self-efficacy—and tries to link those characteristics to better teaching.

Authors Jonah E. Rockoff, Brian A. Jacob, Thomas J. Kane, and Douglas O. Staiger surveyed more than 400 teachers entering the profession in New York City in the 2006-07 school year and analyzed the subjective evaluations of those teachers and the math test scores of their students.

The survey used a number of instruments to measure the attributes, including a measure of teachers’ mathematical knowledge; a framework for assessing personality traits such as conscientiousness and extroversion; a commercial “prescreening” test used by several large urban districts; and an instrument to measure whether teachers believed in their ability to affect student learning.

Individually, those characteristics generally did not predict teacher effectiveness, but when broken down into cognitive and noncognitive skills, both categories were shown to have a modest, statistically significant positive relationship to student outcomes, the report says.

The finding adds another nugget of information to the long-standing puzzle about whether teacher inputs can affect student achievement.

It is also consistent with a handful of other recent studies showing that many teacher qualifications do not individually correspond to higher teaching effectiveness, but certain “bundles” of such qualifications do.

A version of this article appeared in the December 03, 2008 edition of Education Week

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