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This Has Me Concerned: “Study Links Teacher ‘Grit’ with Effectiveness, Retention”

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Its-pretty-clear-that

The SAME day The Washington Post republished my piece on the potential misuse of teaching Social Emotional Learning Skills, Education Week reported on new research titled Study Links Teacher ‘Grit’ with Effectiveness, Retention.

My Washington Post piece had only referred to SEL and students — I’m embarrassed to say I hadn’t even thought about how it could be misused against teachers.

Here’s what the study found:

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.

The researchers evaluated applicants’ resumes on grit by apparently giving points for extracurricular activities and measured teacher “effectiveness” on student test scores.

Come on, now. It’s pretty clear that using Value-Added Measurements to rate teachers is wrought with errors — can you imagine some district trying to incorporate pretty arbitrary grit scores into evaluations?

I met with a staffperson from Angela Duckworth’s new Character Lab on Friday. I shared with her, as I’ve written before, that I strongly believe that these kinds of character assessments can be useful for self-assessment purposes, with the clear explanation that they might or might not be accurate. In fact, I have students take Professor Duckworth’s online “grit assessment” — but only after I caution that it might or might be accurate, they should take it with a grain of salt, not share it, and only use it if it meshes with their own self-assessment.

Once you start using this kind of data to judge others, you fall into the trap of being data-driven instead of being data-informed.

I’ll end with a quote that is often erroneously attributed to Albert Einstein when, in fact, it was said by sociologist William Bruce Cameron. That doesn’t detract from its wisdom:

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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