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  • Erica Kleinknecht

    I appreciate the position. Indeed, as the author implies, the gap may simply be impossible to close because students vary – they always have and they always will. With the fact of human [intellectual] variability in mind (and without getting into what that variability is, because we don’t truly know what intelligence is, in any meaningful metric) the aim of closing a gap doesn’t make sense.

    But what then, should change agents focus on instead? I have a daydream wherein “teacher effectiveness” is simply measured in documented ability to enable growth in all students – growth from their start-of-year skills. An excellent teacher in such a framework would be one who can foster great/extensive/measurable/significant growth in the “bottom 30″ AND in the “top 30″ and all students in between as well. Seems so simple, on the surface, doesn’t it? Deceptively, so. But worth thinking about.

    • Andrew Shauver

      Oh, and I love that you posted this comment in both the blog and here on Good. An excellent trend to try to start!

      • Erica Kleinknecht

        Glad you didn't mind! I figured there would (potentially) be different readers on each site :).

    • Andrew Shauver

      Tantalizingly simple, in fact. If only we had a reliable student growth measure. The hard part about growth measures is that there are two very distinct sides. The teacher plays a part and the student plays a part. It requires a cooperation between the two. If either side doesn’t hold up their end for any reason, the growth gets stunted. There is a myth that the best teachers will inspire students to hold up their end. That if growth is stunted, there MUST be SOMETHING the teacher can do to reverse it. I think that we are running into the fact that sometimes the teacher has done their best. Now, how can we tell the difference between a talented teacher doing their best and competing with forces outside of his/her control and a teacher that is neglecting opportunities at improvement and student engagement? Our district has tried to address that distinction with a whole lot of self-reporting from the teachers. Not sure if that’s the answer, but they are trying.

      • Erica Kleinknecht

        Of course, important issues to tease out. You are right to note that real reform and improvement in the system needs to address both sides - what learners bring with them to the classroom, and the climate of the classroom they arrive in. Outcomes always reflect complex interactions. That said, I do think teacher's can effect student motivation for better or worse, but it's overly simplistic to assume that it's just the teacher acting as causal agent in the situation. The learner has to agree to comply, too.