Measuring Teacher Efficacy?

I work with outstanding teachers.  I have been fortunate to have had some great mentors over my 15 year teaching career in the only high school of our school district.  Some of the outstanding teachers I work with, at times, doubt their own ability to reach students, to help them grasp challenging concepts, and to help them find the intrinsic motivation to become successful problem solvers in all aspects of their lives. I admire them for their self-reflection and adaptation in their classroom.  Teachers are special people who work in a profession that doesn’t always have immediate results in terms of their effectiveness in the classroom as teacher and mentor.

In January I had come back to school after a six week hiatus for family medical leave.  Our growing family-the addition of twins-necessitated my leave.  When I came back I found myself having a tough time transitioning from father/husband mode back to teacher, mentor, and colleague.  Internally I began to wonder if I was in the right position as high school English teacher.  I began to wonder if I was truly listening to God’s calling.  I subtly started to talk to colleagues about this feeling and, surprisingly, found out that some others felt the same way about themselves on certain days or weeks.

That led me to the conclusion that we…those of us who are teachers…are some of the best people I know.  Who else would make the sacrifices we make to help students each and every day of the week?  Yes we have a huge responsibility in teaching students and being role models, some of us are even the ‘white collar’ representatives of our towns and districts.  I believe that all of the teachers I work with are making an effort each and every day to do the best they can to help students in any way possible.  I believe all teachers want to be successful…it is in our nature.

If these things are true, and I do believe they are, why do we have an epidemic in our schools of low achieving students?  I posted last week that the arbitrary assignment of a letter grade to a student is not the most accurate indicator of what that student knows.  I have some of the best students, academically, in the school attending my class each and every day.  I do have other sections that represent the lower half of their class academically.  Some students are bright kids but don’t seem to find the motivation or desire to complete the requirements of the course.  We have ‘traditional teachers’ delivering instruction the best they can each day.  To the contrary, we have ‘technology driven teachers’ that are using LOADS of technology in their classes.  Results?  Same students are struggling in these classes.

There must be an answer to students earning low grades in our schools.  Is it a behavioral issue?  Some highly trained, qualified, and engaging teachers believe it is.  Is it a teacher efficacy issue?  Some administrators believe it is.  More questions, then, are raised.

How is the efficacy of teachers to be measured?  I know there has been much discussion about merit pay for teachers and so on, but what and how are the variables going to be  identified and weighted?  What or who exactly is an effective teacher?  I have never really seen that defined in my teacher handbook.  Who is tracking the success or efficacy of the teachers?

How are administrators going to contain and control behavior in their schools?  Furthermore, how and when are teachers and administrators going to be on the same page when it comes to changing school climate and academic achievement? What or who exactly is an effective administrator?  Who is tracking the success or efficacy of the building administrators?

Working together, like we ask our students to do, on a unified vision will help raise expectations of our students which, in turn, will increase those arbitrary grades we all have to put on a report card.


About jpsteltz

Proud husband and father of four; Literacy Specialist; Reading Teacher; Literacy Coach; HS ELA Teacher; Published Author
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10 Responses to Measuring Teacher Efficacy?

  1. Mary Kay says:

    There must be an answer to students earning low grades in our schools. Is it a behavioral issue? Some highly trained, qualified, and engaging teachers believe it is. Is it a teacher efficacy issue?

    As mom of an ADD student….I would think most of the time it is undiagnosed ADD/ADHD. Once I got my son on meds, it was like night and day. He was really struggling and could not pay attention. The principal of his private school favors honor roll students, so you can imagine how my son was treated! I was at school every other day. My son could study hours for a test but still fail it. I studied with him, for hours, and he still failed. He knew the material.

    The really good teachers will find other ways to take a test. Not all teachers are willing to do that.

    My question to you….are you aware of ADD/ADHD and are you aware that some kids just can’t take tests?

    My son’s middle school left a very bad taste in my mouth. I regret putting him through that! I won’t even go into what happened for the end of the year 8th grade trip…only to say that the kids who were failing a class couldn’t go which in turn left out the students who needed to be on this trip the most. My son left that school feeling like a reject! And just for the record, he just made the “B” honor roll at Roncalli!

    I applaud you John for caring so much. I applaud you that it is not just the paycheck you are after. We need more teachers like you!!!


    • jsteltz says:

      You pose some great questions for educators! Thank you so much for your parent perspective.

      Teachers are often made aware of the special needs students have. It is a challenge for every teacher to be able differentiate instruction in their classrooms for the variety of needs and learning abilities for their students.

      I am not sure we need more teachers like…I do know that there are quality teachers who work very hard for the positive experience of their students.

      Thank you for giving us your input!


  2. This one is hard for me to reply to since so many thoughts run through my mind. I do make an effort to sell my class to kids and to find out what drives them to complete assignments. Once upon a time I was successful, but over the past three years I have been failing. Even if I bring in more tricks, it seems like it isn’t profitable. I have watered down the class to make it more suitable for the crowd I serve that I’m embarrassed, but I know the overall goal is really to just get them to pass. That’s wrong too, but it feels like that sometimes. What ever happened to accountability and tough love? If they fail a class then they make the whole thing up the next year. Instead we ship kids in all sort of different directions for credit recovery. Granted, some deserve it or need a shoulder, but many do not. I just don’t know. I was raised with tough love and good examples, but I don’t know if our kids have enough support like that.


    • jsteltz says:

      Your post leaves a pit in my stomach because I am aware of the reality of what’s happening in classrooms everywhere. Your comments help to illustrate my point of getting parents to ‘buy in’ as well as the students.

      It almost seems as though we are providing ‘safety nets’ for students while teachers are encouraged to dilute the experiences w/in their classrooms. The less waves teachers make, at times, the better those teachers are perceived by authority. The same could be said about students.

      It’s really too bad that teachers who continue to adapt and try new things consistently run into brick walls. Teaching is hard work….really!


  3. I too am privileged to work with some magnificent teachers who are often miles ahead of me in tech, and delivery, and collaboration. Like you said, the struggling student seems to have difficulty across the board.

    I find that these students often are without focus or tangible passions. In my art room, students have the opportunity to follow their passions as they choose subjects, and sketch. Routinely these students cannot identify their own interests. I struggle to find ways to connect with them.

    How does a student find themselves without passion? What experience have they missed? While I try to figure this out, the number of apathetic students seems to grow exponentially. I don’t think that lowering standards fixes this apathy.

    It is easy to get down trying to work through this. I frequently doubt my calling as a teacher. Then, some average student will create just what I was asking for, or something way better.

    I surely don’t want to be paid based on how often this epiphany occurs. I play a small part in this awakening, but too many variables are out of my control.

    My admin. supports me as I explore options, and they encourage the use of tech. to make this happen. Again, I am fortunate in my situation. Glad I’m not alone in worrying about these students.


    • jsteltz says:

      Justin-thank you so much for adding to this dialogue. It sounds like you are in a wonderful situation with proper support from admin and the ability to work your own creativity into your teaching.

      I believe that I have always been allowed to be creative w/in my own classroom, sometimes to a fault. But through this type of practice I have learned an abundance from my mistakes. I am a better teacher today because I have been self-reflective and learned from my mistakes.

      We, as teachers, though are constantly trying to cure apathy. Like I stated in my post, we have teachers that make use of current technology to enhance learning and we have traditional teachers that use a lot of direct instruction. There are low achieving students (sometimes the same student) in both classrooms.

      With the freedom we are given in our classrooms, along with that comes the expectations that we ‘find a way.’ Then when there are a shockingly high number of D’s or F’s, the classroom door is open and the questions begin. Why aren’t we intervening sooner or, even better, why aren’t we collaborating with admin, parents, and students more often?

      Like I said, this dialogue generates more questions for me.

      Thanks so much for being a part!!!


  4. Katie says:

    I struggle with the same issue. I truely feel the topics I cover are important and want students to be engaged in the topic. When I reach out to student for extra-curricular activities it is very disheartening when the day before the activity students say I am not going, or worse, the day of they just don’t show up.

    I am trying to get disappointed by the few who fail to follow through, but excited for the ones who are excelling. I try to keep the focus on what differences I can make and what matters.


    • jsteltz says:

      Katie I love your perspective of being excited about the students that are excelling…sometimes teachers have a tendency to just expect greatness from kids that excel and really don’t recognize them enough.

      Thanks for posting. I appreciate your input!!


  5. Jeff says:

    John this is the million dollar question in schools today. I as well as staff have struggled with this. I am reminded of Bill Collar’s book when he says “If they arent learning the way you teach, then teach the way they learn.” A lot of great teachers are doing that and students are still unmotivated. I as an administrator struggle with this issue on a daily basis. I find that what works one day does not work the next. I think RTI when done well and sytematically may have an effect on this, but we are not yet there with that process. Thanks again for the great topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jsteltz says:


      Once again thank you so much for your contribution. I think it is so helpful to try to process this kind of stuff through great discussion and collaboration with fellow colleagues. I have just heard about RTI at the end of last week for the first time. I know very little about it yet.

      It’s nice to hear an administrator’s take on this topic. You hit right on…A lot of great teachers doing good things and adjusting but students remain unmotivated. I guess we have to keep fighting the good fight with PMA!!!

      Thanks Jeff


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