University of Pennsylvania study: True grit of individual teacher linked to effectiveness and retention

11 Mar

Melanie Smollin has an excellent post at Take Part, Five Reasons Why Teacher Turnover Is On The Rise:

With approximately 1.6 million teachers set to retire in the next decade, replenishing America’s teaching force should be a top priority. But filling classrooms with new teachers is only half the battle. Retaining them is equally important.
Numerous studies show that teachers perform best after being in the classroom for at least five years. According to a McKinsey study, 14 percent of American teachers leave after only one year, and 46 percent quit before their fifth year. In countries with the highest results on international tests, teacher turnover rates are much lower—around 3 percent.
This constant cycling in and out of new teachers is a costly phenomena. Students miss being taught by experienced educators, and schools and districts nationwide spend about $2.2 billion per year recruiting and training replacements.
Why are so many new teachers fleeing the profession after so few years in the classroom? Here are the top five reasons teacher turnover is an ongoing challenge:
5. BURNOUT: A recent U.C. Berkeley study of Los Angeles charter schools found unusually high rates of teacher turnover. At the 163 charter schools studied, teacher turnover hovered around 40 percent, compared to 15 percent at traditional public schools.
Since demands on charter school educators are seemingly boundless, including extended hours, researchers theorized, burnout is a viable explanation for the teacher exodus. “We have seen earlier results showing that working conditions are tough and challenging in charter schools,” explained U.C. Berkeley’s Bruce Fuller. “Charter teachers wear many hats and have many duties and are teaching urban kids, challenging urban kids, but we were surprised by the magnitude of this effect.”
4.THREAT OF LAYOFFS: In response to annual budget shortfalls, districts nationwide have sent pink slips to tens of thousands of teachers each spring for the past four years. In 2011, California sent out 30,000….
3. LOW WAGES: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently said that teachers should earn between $60,000 and $150,000 per year. That’s a far cry from the current national average starting salary for teachers, which is $35,139….
2. TESTING PRESSURE: Since the No Child Left Behind Act was introduced in 2001, standardized test scores in math and reading have become the most important accountability measure used to evaluate schools.
Studies show that pressure to raise student test scores causes teachers to experience more stress and less job satisfaction. Many educators resent narrowing curriculum and stifling creativity in favor of teaching to the test.
On the National Center for Education Information’s “Profile of Teachers in the U.S. 2011,” the majority of comments submitted by survey respondents were “expressions of strong opposition to the current emphasis on student testing.”
As states increasingly rely on standardized test scores to evaluate individual educators, determine teacher pay and make lay-off decisions, testing pressure will only increase.
1. POOR WORKING CONDITIONS: When the Gates foundation polled 40,000 teachers about job satisfaction, the majority agreed that supportive leadership, time for collaboration, access to high quality curriculum and resources, clean and safe buildings, and relevant professional development were even more important than higher salaries.
But working conditions in many public schools remain far from this ideal—especially for beginning teachers, who are most likely to be assigned to the highest-need schools. Despite the added challenges they face, these teachers are often given few resources and little professional support.

Since many teachers will be leaving the profession in the next few years, the question is what effect teacher departures have on students and are there traits of teachers who choose to remain in the classroom which should be studied.

Holly Yettick reported in the Education Week article, Study Links Teacher ‘Grit’ with Effectiveness, Retention:

In recent years, we’ve heard a lot about gritty students. Now grit researchers are turning their attention to teachers. In a study published in the current issue of the peer-reviewed journal Teachers College Record, University of Pennsylvania researchers Claire Robertson-Kraft and Angela Duckworth found that, for novice teachers in high-poverty school districts, higher levels of “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” (aka “grit”) were associated with higher rates of effectiveness and retention.
“No single factor alone should determine a hiring decision for a teacher,” said Robertson-Kraft, a doctoral candidate in education policy and former 3rd grade teacher. “But the study does suggest that grit is one factor that could be considered among many.”
This is not the first study of teachers and grit for Duckworth, an associate professor of psychology and MacArthur Fellow who has been credited with coining the term “grit” in 2007. An earlier study, published in the peer-refereed Journal of Positive Psychology in 2009, also found that grittier novice teachers were more effective novice teachers. However, a limitation of that study was that it relied on self reports of grit. (For instance, participants were asked to rate the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with such sentences as “Setbacks don’t discourage me.”) A problem with self-reported measures is that people are more likely to agree with socially desirable statements simply because they think they should.
For this more recent study, the authors developed a method in which raters scored 461 novice teachers’ resumes. This method assigns 0 to 6 points based on the extent to which a teacher sticks with an activity over a period of years and also attains “moderate” or “high” levels of success in that activity. For instance, a teacher with no multiyear activities in college would receive a score of 0, which would indicate a shortage of grit. The highest score of 6 might go to a gritty teacher who was a “member of the cross-country team for four years and voted MVP in senior year” and was also “founder and president for two years of the university’s Habitat for Humanity chapter.” The unnamed teacher-training organization that provided the data for the study is now using a version of this rating system as one of multiple tools to help make hiring decisions.
The rating system could be promising, according to Matthew Kraft (no relation to Robertson-Kraft), an assistant professor of education at Brown University. Kraft was not involved with the study….

Here is the synopsis from Teachers College Record:

True Grit: Trait-Level Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals Predicts Effectiveness and Retention Among Novice Teachers
by Claire Robertson-Kraft & Angela Duckworth — 2014

Background/Context: Surprisingly little progress has been made in linking teacher effectiveness and retention to factors observable at the time of hire. The rigors of teaching, particularly in low-income school districts, suggest the importance of personal qualities that have so far been difficult to measure objectively.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: In this study, we examine the predictive validity of personal qualities not typically collected by school districts during the hiring process. Specifically, we use a psychological framework to explore how biographical data on grit, a disposition toward perseverance and passion for long-term goals, explains variance in novice teachers’ effectiveness and retention.
Research Design: In two prospective, longitudinal samples of novice teachers assigned to schools in low-income districts (N = 154 and N = 307, respectively), raters blind to outcomes followed a 7-point rubric to rate grit from information on college activities and work experience extracted from teachers’ résumés. We used independent-samples, t-tests, and binary logistic regression models to predict teacher effectiveness and retention from these grit ratings as well as from other information (e.g., SAT scores, college GPA, and interview ratings of leadership potential) available at the time of hire.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Grittier teachers outperformed their less gritty colleagues and were less likely to leave their classrooms midyear. Notably, no other variables in our analysis predicted either effectiveness or retention. These findings contribute to a better understanding of what leads some novice teachers to outperform others and remain committed to the profession. In addition to informing policy decisions surrounding teacher recruitment and development, this investigation highlights the potential of a psychological framework to explain why some individuals are more successful than others in meeting the rigorous demands of teaching.

What the various studies seem to point out is there is no one remedy which works in all situations and that there must be a menu of education options.


A Lively Debate Over Teacher Salaries

Are Teachers Overpaid?

Some Teachers Skeptical of Merit Pay


Washington D.C. rolls out merit pay

Report from The Compensation Technical Working Group: Teacher compensation in Washington

Fordham Institute report: Teacher pensions squeezing states

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Blogs by Dr. Wilda:


Dr. Wilda Reviews ©

Dr. Wilda ©

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: