New Tricks

Submitted By:
Jon Gold, Moses Brown School, Providence, RI

Proof Points: Debunking the myth that teachers stop improving after five years by Jill Barshay
The Hechinger Report, March 7, 2022

This article takes aim at one of the most common myths about teachers' growth process: that we stop improving after five years. Summarizing the studies underpinning the myth, the article then takes readers through more recent research showing that indeed "old dogs do appear to learn new tricks." Importantly, the new research is based on measures beyond test scores, which are an imperfect tool for gauging teacher effectiveness and are often less applicable in the independent school context. The research also points to other mitigating factors in measuring teacher effectiveness, which might be of interest to school leaders and educators. Even more excitingly, it begins to sketch out the conditions for supporting and sustaining teacher growth and improvement, including team teaching, coaching models, and more targeted professional development. Given the sheer number of inputs that go into teaching and learning, it's likely never going to be possible to achieve an objective measure of teacher effectiveness, but dispensing with the notion that teachers stop growing after five years is one step towards a more holistic, nuanced set of evaluative tools. After all, if we want teachers to keep improving, we should probably stop using outdated research that shows they stop.

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