Part III: Assessing Which Teacher Characteristics Are Important

Identifying the characteristics that make teachers effective is the first step in designing policy solutions to improve teacher quality. It is also important to understand which characteristics do not impact teacher effectiveness. With a knowledge of which types of teachers produce student achievement gains, policymakers can design policies to recruit and retain such teachers for Michigan classrooms. Although education researchers agree that teachers matter, they often lament that the specific characteristics that make certain teachers more effective than others are statistically unobservable, given existing data.[15] Despite these limitations on teacher quality research,[*] some trends concerning meaningful teacher characteristics have begun to emerge.

[*] Other limitations exist as well. In particular, individual studies on teacher quality are often based on data for only a few grade levels. Hence, scholars cannot necessarily assume their findings will be consistent for all grades. Nevertheless, most of the studies included in this primer involve high-quality research by leading scholars in the field. They have designed their studies to be as broadly applicable as possible, thereby increasing the likelihood the results can be generalized across grade levels. As a result, a consensus has developed among scholars about the broad parameters of teaching quality, despite their awareness of the desirability of additional research.