What Make a Great Teacher: Part 3

Earlier today the Department of Education issued the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Grade 12 Reading and Mathematics National and Pilot State Results.

School LockersToday’s report suggests that high school seniors’ achievement in reading and math isn’t rising fast enough to prepare them to succeed in college and careers. Reading results have improved since 2005, but are still below the level of 1992. Math scores also show only incremental gains over four years ago.

In my third interview as part of the What Makes a Great Teacher series I asked a fourth year high school social studies teacher about measuring student success. During the conversation, he explores the discrepancies in grades from teacher to teacher, an interesting reality in today’s education system.

What is the single most important factor in determining a student’s success?

The belief in themselves that they can be successful – this belief can grow from the influence of a positive mentor – a teacher or parent.

How can students do their best in school?

Students need to make school a priority and ask for help when they need it.  I see far too many students who get caught up in things that are not important.

How do you measure an effective student?

Teachers need to work collaboratively to provide balance formative and summative assessments that measure student achievement.  There are ten teachers in my department who teach World History I.  48% of the 535 students enrolled in the course had an A on their progress reports.  As I went through and crunched numbers, I learned that there is one teacher whose grades indicate that 91% of her students have earned an A.  Just 18% of another teacher’s students have earned an A.  We are having a candid conversation tomorrow in our Professional Learning Community (PLC) meeting about this discrepancy and why it exists.  Is it truly that Teacher A has students who have exceeded her expectations whereas Teacher B just has a “challenging group” this year?  Perhaps – but that probably doesn’t explain a gap that is quite that large.  It’s because the expectations for student achievement are different, and how grades are determined by Teacher A and Teacher B are likely vastly different.  So, in short, teachers need to determine what measures an “effective student” in similar ways.  Additionally, I’ve found that effective students are those who value their education and are willing to work hard to achieve the goals set for themselves. Not every student can earn an A in a class, but every student can learn.

What makes a great teacher?

A great teacher cares about his/her students.  A great teacher provides engaging, relevant, and scaffolded lessons that focus on the learner.  A great teacher motivates his/her student to achieve their personal goals.  A great teacher transcends course content to teach students about life – what it means to be a caring, open-minded, well-rounded person.  A great teacher makes those around him better – teachers, students, and administrators alike.

Posts in this series:

American Education Week

What Makes a Great Teacher: Part 1
What Makes a Great Teacher: Part 2

Mike Toner

Based in Alexandria, Virginia Michael is the Manager of Social Media at Navy Federal Credit Union. By evening, he's a husband, dog owner and runner. Toner writes about social media strategy, tools, training and best practices for social and digital marketing programs.


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What Make a Great Teacher: Part 2

Everyday nearly 50 million students head off to approximately 99,000 public elementary and secondary schools around the country and before...