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 New SDCOE Training Explores What Makes Teachers Effective

Educators "pairing and sharing" at the trainingStudents assigned to a highly effective teacher are more likely to go to college and earn more money throughout their lives—as much as $50,000 more.

At the same time, studies suggest that the United States’ educational ranking is slipping when compared with other countries.

In response to statistics such as these, the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) created the Teacher Effectiveness and Evaluation Project to determine what makes for an effective teacher.

The project started almost four years ago as part of SDCOE’s Strategic Plan. The first step was to ask students, teachers, administrators, and county leaders what attributes they 

thought effective teachers share.

“We have incredible expertise within our surrounding school districts,” said Marsha Buckley-Boyle, who helps oversee the project. “We just have to listen.”

The most frequently heard responses were: 
  • The teacher likes me (shows the students they do).
  • Effective teachers know their content.
  • They know how to teach their content.
  • They make the content relevant to the student. 

“It is simple, right?” Buckley-Boyle said. “So why do we create such complicated measures to analyze these four attributes of effective teachers?”

The key isn’t the tool or the evaluation itself; it’s the process, she said.

After working with 18 students to help launch a website for the project last year, SDCOE employees created a six-day training to help educators proceed through each step of the evaluation process, which starts with identifying effectiveness and ends with creating a system to support and maintain effectiveness.

“The question of how we define and retain effective teachers is critical to each of us as parents, grandparents, family, neighbors, educators and business people,” Buckley-Boyle 

said. “We must prepare our children for the 21st century—ready for college and careers—and one major step is to have effective teachers.”

The first cohort began in August and includes participants from the Mountain Empire Unified, Grossmont Union High, National, South Bay Union, Bonsall Union, and Coronado Unified school districts. The lessons included team-building, norm-setting, and consensus-building activities.

During the first afternoon, participants investigated the last 100 years of educators’ searches about what effective teaching is and how to maintain it. Teams reviewed 20-year spans, synthesized the critical information, and charted it. 

The project is gaining momentum, too. The California Department of Education will use it in a pilot study this year. Feedback from local and state stakeholders will be used to continually enhance learning.

“It is exciting,” Buckley-Boyle said. “I hope it will make a difference for students throughout San Diego County and beyond.”​