Teachers Matter Most 

Today’s Topic: Teachers Matter Most

“Teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling...Although curricula, reduced class size, district funding, family and community involvement all contribute to student achievement, the most influential factor is the teacher” (Teachers). To be clear, not every teacher has a positive impact on student performance. Teachers who offer high quality, effective instruction will likely influence student performance in a positive direction.

What are the characteristics of an effective teacher? According to Harry Wong, an educator, speaker, author, and recipient of many educational awards, including the Horace Mann Outstanding Educator Award, effective teachers:

  1. Have positive expectations for student success and trust that ALL students can learn if given proper, differentiated instruction and guidance.
  2. Excel in classroom management, run well-organized classrooms using reliable procedures and anticipate disciplinary challenges before they occur.
  3. Know their content, are familiar with state standards and regularly assess their students to determine their level of mastery (About).

What are the habits of an effective teacher? The chart on the right, provided by Edutopia, lists the 11 Habits of an Effective Teacher. It describes the quintessential teacher who is passionate about teaching, is happy with his or her job, and who every child in the school would love to have as their classroom teacher (Lam). 

Can teachers learn how to become effective? According to the staff at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “it is not always easy for districts to identify effective teaching and use that information to help teachers improve and become great.” Thus, they teamed up with three school districts that had committed to giving teachers the feedback and support they needed, including classroom observations, student achievement measures, and student surveys in their evaluation process. At its core, this initiative was about maximizing student learning. In the beginning, progress in terms of student achievement was slow, but over time the reforms these schools adopted began to show a positive impact on student outcomes (Scott).

One of the key takeaways from this initiative is that it is extremely worthwhile to provide teachers with the support and tools they need to improve and strengthen their craft. In doing so, students stand a better chance of having greater success in school. 

What is Leicester Doing To Strengthen Teacher Effectiveness?

We believe one of the best ways to give our students the opportunity to succeed is to support teachers in every classroom by giving them the tools they need to be effective.


One thing we have done to strengthen teacher effectiveness is to hire Dr. Matthew Joseph as the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. Over the past 25 years, Matt has held positions as a school and district leader in many capacities, including director of digital learning and innovation, elementary school principal, classroom teacher, and district professional development specialist. Dr. Joseph earned a master's degree in special education and administration and has his Ed.D. in educational leadership from Boston College. Matt holds licenses in teaching, school administration, and MA superintendent. Click HERE to see his biography.

Over the past 25 years, Matt has collected incredible insights on how best to support teaching and learning and will be using his expertise to identify the district’s strengths and challenges in the area of instruction.  As a way to focus on instruction, one of the major strategic objectives outlined in the District Improvement Plan is to:

“Design engaging instruction grounded in rigorous and relevant curricula in order to improve overall student achievement.” 

At the district’s first professional learning workshop held in October, Dr. Joseph kicked off the day by challenging the teachers to look at themselves in a different way. Instead of asking the question, what do you teach, he encouraged the teachers to ask, why do you teach? In other words, what is your purpose? When asked in this way, their purpose becomes very clear--student learning. His point was when we communicate our purpose first, we communicate in a way that drives behavior. And positive behavioral changes work to improve effectiveness in the classroom, not only in what we do and how we do it but also in how we measure results. Matt will continue to work with administrators and teachers to strengthen teacher effectiveness in the classroom and, by extension, improve student performance.

For the rest of the day, teachers learned something new from their peers. In one session, Ms. Stapel focused on Flipped Learning, an approach to instruction that turns conventional teaching on its head. In this model, students learn the material outside of the classroom and then use class time to deepen their knowledge and understanding. An effective flipped classroom is one in which the time normally spent on lecturing is used for in-class activities, discussions, problem-solving, and group projects. The most meaningful learning in a flipped classroom occurs as a result of efficient use of the extra class time.

Dr. Joseph held a session that focused on creating active learning environments. One of the keys to academic achievement is active learning. According to research, personalized, collaborative, and connected learning experiences enhance student engagement, which in turn drives student success. During the session, teachers worked with online tools like Flip Grid, Padlet, and EdPuzzle, giving them the opportunity to actively engage with the information instead of passively taking it in. This is another instructional practice that is very promising in terms of helping students achieve their goals.

For the next three years, one of our key objectives will be to strengthen teacher effectiveness in the classroom. With the addition of Dr. Joseph to guide faculty and staff, we believe that we can meet this objective and look forward to Leicester’s students reaping the benefits of these efforts.

Go Deeper

Click on the following links to read the full articles cited in this blog.

“About Best Practices in Defining Characteristics of Effective Teachers.” Benchmark Education, 

Lam, Carrie. ”11 Habits of an Effective Teacher.” George Lucas Foundation, July 2015.

“Teachers Matter: Understanding Teachers' Impact on Student Achievement.” Rand Education and Labor,

Scott, Irvin. “Learning from our Efforts: Improving Teacher Effectiveness at Scale.” Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,

Posted by colbyl On 04 November, 2019 at 2:57 PM  

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