(I’m republishing posts on my My All-Time Favorite Posts list. This one appeared in 2020. You can see them all here.)



Ted Appel, our school’s former – and great – principal, talked about the importance of looking at teacher “input” instead of student “output” when considering if a teacher is doing good work.

In other words,  if a teacher is practicing instructionally sound pedagogy, then he or she should be considered to be doing good work, even if, due to circumstances beyond the teacher’s control, the student does not demonstrate that the taught content or skills were not learned.

You can learn more about this idea at The Best Resources On The Idea Of Evaluating Teacher “Input” Instead Of Student “Output.”

And what might those “instructionally-sound” teaching practices might be?  Well, Ted wrote about that in GUEST POST: WHAT DOES TOM BRADY HAVE IN COMMON WITH A GREAT TEACHER?, which later republished in The Washington Post.

Today, education researcher Larry Cuban published a blog post that seemed to echo this idea, though he explains it as the difference between “good” teaching and “successful” teaching, as the highlighted text at the top of this post highlights.  Of course, both Ted and Larry note that the two are not mutually exclusive.  Their point is that “good” does not necessarily lead automatically to “successful.”

Check it out at Remote Delivery of Instruction–Covid-19 and Re-opening Schools.

Here’s another excerpt from Larry’s post:

Another way to distinguish between “good” and “successful” is when a 8th grade teacher teaches the theory of evolution consistent with the age of the child and best practices of science teaching (the “good” part) and then has her students complete three written paragraphs filled with relevant details and present-day examples that demonstrate their understanding of the theory of evolution (the “successful” part). These teaching acts are not the same nor does one necessarily lead to the other. For the next few months, one has to imagine this occurring on screen with rapt students watching. It is hard for me to imagine.

What does all this mean for this year of remote and/or hybrid learning?

Well, I think it means we apply research-based practices that engage students and support creating the conditions that encourage intrinsic motivation to learn.  We shared many of them in the free chapter from our upcoming book and you can find more at The Best Summaries Of Research About Online Instruction.

Research shows that teachers can only influence twenty-five percent of the factors that lead to student academic achievement.

And that’s in “normal” times.

These are decidedly not “normal” times.

In the spring, I was super-accessible to students, I taught well-attended live classes daily, and the classes followed just about every research-based online instructional strategy out there.  In spite of that, if you gave my students English assessments at the end of school, I’d bet 90% would have shown no improvement or regression from their English skills on March 13th.  Yes, it could be that I’m just a bad teacher (which is definitely sometimes true).  Or, more likely, it’s because of a host of other factors that were affecting my students’ lives (caring for younger siblings, having to work to help support their families, mental health pressures as a result of the pandemic, etc.), not to mention not being in a physical classroom environment.

These are certainly not the times to require standardized testing (which, incredibly, a federal Education Department official recently said were not likely to be waived).

Yes, provide professional development to teachers about how to provide effective remote instruction, including social emotional support.

Yes, hold teachers accountable to actually put that pedagogy and those SEL practices into action.  And to regularly reflect and re-calibrate how they and their students are doing, and make on-going improvements.  After all – not all research applies to the same way to all situations.

Yes, make sure districts and schools are prepared to provide further needed SEL support to students, because teachers are not going to be able to do it all this year.

Yes, make sure school leaders are actively advocating to extend eviction moratoriums, because having a huge increase in the number of homeless students is going to make it so much worse for everyone.

Yes, focus on supporting teacher “inputs” this year, because I don’t want to hear any complaints about student “outputs,” especially if you’re not actually teaching a class or working in a K-12 school everyday.

This line of argument is not intended to give teachers a “pass.”  It is, however, designed to recognize the old community organizer adage that “we live in the world as it is, not as we’d like it to be.”  Pretending otherwise will benefit no one, including our students.  Let’s support teachers improving their craft without adding the additional stress of holding them accountable for things that are beyond their control.