How to Define What Really Matters When Evaluating Teachers

When recounting our childhood experiences, many of us to quickly cite a favorite teacher who made a difference in our lives. Defining what made those teachers memorable comes easy to many of us. Perhaps, one teacher was hard on his students — pushing them to excellence. Another may have devoted hours after school to make sure her students “got” it. Other teachers just had a way of helping students recognize and believe in their potential.

The reason why teachers stand out as defining points in our childhood points to the ongoing issue when it comes to evaluating teachers professionally — its important to evaluate what’s important because the relationship between a teacher and individual student success can get incredibly complex.

Yet, evaluating teachers is a necessity as much as employee evaluations are needed in other industries to boost performance. Within education, it’s also essential in ensuring that students are able to perform to the best of their ability.

So, what really matters when it comes to evaluating teachers? While the debate is ongoing, here are 5 essential qualities of a good teacher that should be constantly measured. Many of them point back to the traits we cite when reminiscing about those “favorite teachers.”

1. Teacher certification—especially in the areas of math and science. Teachers should be certified to teach certain subjects. General teacher certifications may not adequately prepare teachers to instruct a class in chemistry, for instance. According to one study, certification in a particular subject translates into a higher rate of student success.

2. Subject knowledge. A teacher’s subject matter knowledge should not be measured solely by certification. Teachers who majored in a specific subject while in college have been shown to have students with higher rates of success. According to one study, students with teachers holding a master’s degree in the subject performed better than classmates taught by a teacher with a bachelor’s degree. However, this is not always the case. Years of experience teaching a course also can translate into higher rates of performance among students.

3. Sets high expectations. Beyond more concrete factors such as subject knowledge, good teachers set high goals for their students — and expect them to reach them, according to a study by Teach for America.

4. Constantly re-evaluate their methods. Additionally, according to the Teach for America study, effective teachers are also were constantly seeking ways to improve their effectiveness in the classroom. Many of these successful teachers were observed changing things up — to make sure they were constantly improving.

5. Solicited family involvement. The Teach for America study also indicated that high performing teachers actively sought out the families of students to help them achieve.

Evaluating teachers’ performance may be more complex than simply checking off a list about academic performance. It requires a strategic method of capturing those traits that not only encourage students, but also leave a long-lasting impact.