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Every teacher in every classroom should understand two of the most important research findings from the past several decades. If we understand them, we will work hard to become better and better teachers every day. In particular, the following two meta-analyses help us think twice about our current classroom policies.

Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment (Black and Wiliam) found that students of teachers who used formative assessment practices in their classrooms significantly improved students’ performance on standardized tests. The highest gains occurred for lower performing students.

Marzano and his colleagues analyzed research studies conducted over a 35-year period. Their findings show how important an individual teacher is to student learning. In fact, Marzano’s study shows us that the teacher is the most important variable that affects student learning.

These two studies leverage our number one goal as teachers—to improve student learning. We know two important facts from these studies:

Most students are less likely to achieve without the help from a really good teacher.

Applying a formative assessment process in classrooms provides students with the best opportunities to succeed.

Beginning this week through the next 4 weeks of Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday posts we present the Effective Teacher GPA Exercise. The Exercise encourages you to take a moment and reflect on your classroom practices by reviewing a statement and then using an A to F grade to rate your performance. At the completion of the Exercise at the end of the summer, we encourage you to calculate your overall GPA using your response/grade across all items. The more honest you are with your ratings, the more open you will be to learn how to address each item.

At the beginning of professional development sessions or a class we ask teachers to take this self-assessment to help us set the stage for learning together. In our experience, teachers tend to assign themselves and other teachers grades that produce a “C” average. Ironically, research over the years tells us that when teachers apply these actions in their classrooms, students achieve higher scores on standardized tests.

Teachers are not altogether responsible for failing to score an “A” on the self-assessment. The good news is that when teachers commit to applying the actions from the Effective Teacher GPA Exercise in their classrooms, they regain their passion for teaching.

Again, beginning today and through the next four weeks, we encourage you to participate in the Effective Teacher GPA Exercise poll. At the end of four weeks, you can calculate your overall GPA; we will do the same using all poll responses.





Black, P., and Wiliam, D. 1998. Inside the black box: raising standards through classroom assessment, Phi Delta Kappa, 80(2), pp. 139 – 144.

Marzano, R. 2003. What works in schools: Translating research into action. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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