TeacherInsight--Insightful screening device or education gobbledy gook?

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Districts across the nation are glomming on to a new piece of software from the Gallup Organization that promises to tell them which applicants for teaching positions have the right stuff for the job. More than 1,500 school districts are joining other industries' penchant for personality tests, and are now using TeacherInsight. It comes with the claim that its assessment of a person's beliefs, attitudes and values correlates quite reliably with how effective that person will be as a teacher.

The secret to Gallup's self-professed ability to foretell teacher success is not in a crystal ball, but in having given this test to 400 high-quality teachers, at least teachers identified by other teachers, principals and parents as being of high quality. These teachers established the "right" answers for Gallup.

Gallup says the test gauges natural talent--insisting that good teachers are not necessarily those who have mastered subject material but are those know how to best connect with kids. However, research on how well TeacherInsight identifies effective teachers has had mixed results--especially when using student achievement as an indicator. One such study, forthcoming from Michigan State, shows that the Gallup instrument is a better predictor of administrator ratings than of student gain scores.

Undoubtedly, the beliefs, attitudes and values of teachers are of great importance to the profession and are therefore applicable to the hiring process. Whether they are relevant to pedagogical effectiveness--not just to employment survival--is another matter.