Studies released this year offer real evidence that good teaching can be passed down, in a sense, from mentor teacher to student teacher. In several cases, they find that the performance of the student teachers once they have their own full-time classrooms corresponds to the quality of the teacher they trained under.
The findings offer a common-sense prescription: invest in finding the most effective possible teachers to supervise their trainees.
One of the studies, published last month in the peer-reviewed journal Educational Researcher, examined thousands of student teachers between 2010 and 2015 who were subsequently hired by a Tennessee public school. It found that teachers tended to be better at raising students’ test scores if their supervising teacher was better than average, too. Similarly, new teachers scored better on classroom observation rubrics when they had been mentored by a teacher who also scored well on that same rubric.
There was no evidence that teachers with more years of experience, all else equal, were more effective as supervisors.
A similar study, released in January, focused on about 300 student teachers in Chicago Public Schools who were subsequently hired in the district. Again, the student teachers who had better mentor teachers, as measured by classroom observations, ended up with better observation scores themselves.
Here too, there was no clear benefit of having a more experienced supervisor.