Today's Puzzle: What Matters Most In Selecting folks for TFA?

Here is the question. In interviews and role plays, Teach For America asks candidates a bunch of questions. They rate the applicants across 8 categories. Predict which 3 matter most. That is, which 3 qualities matter the most in predicting which teachers will get kids to learn the most math or English?

Think about your answer before you click for Will Dobbie's answer. Will is a good-natured Harvard doctoral student who I've met a few times via Roland Fryer. I suspect he'll go on to become a big-name researcher within a few years.

Achievement Organizational ability Motivational ability Respect for others Leadership experience Perseverance Critical thinking ability Fit with TFA mission

Do you have your 3? Not yet -- you want to define the terms first? Okay, click and read TFA's definitions below.

Achievement measures whether an applicant has achieved ambitious, measurable results in academics and in past leadership roles or jobs. This variable is measured using college GPA in an applicant’s junior and senior years.

TFA’s leadership measure captures the selectivity and performance in any leadership roles while in college.

Perseverance attempts to identify applicants who, when challenged, work through obstacles purposefully and relentlessly. This variable is measured through a responses to a series of questions regarding the most significant challenges an applicant has overcome.

Critical thinking measures an applicant’s ability to make accurate connections between cause and effect and generate relevant solutions to problems, as measured through a 15 multiple choice question exam and a free response essay.

TFA’s organization variable captures an individual’s ability to systematically plan both a single teaching lesson and the progression of lessons that make up the school year.

Organization is measured through a scored sample teaching lesson, questions on processes, and ability to meet deadlines throughout the application process. Motivational ability measures the applicant’s skill in convincing students to act a certain way, measured through a scored sample teaching lesson, group activities, letters of recommendation, and role play activities.

Whether an applicant holds high expectations for individuals in low-income communities is captured by the respect measure, captured through a series of interview questions about low-income individuals.

The last TFA measure is fit, which measures whether an applicant believes TFA’s goals are attainable through the TFA approach. The fit variable is scored using overall interviewer impressions of knowledge of and commitment to the belief in ability of children to achieve and the belief in the TFA focus on raising student academic achievement.

Want to change your answer of which 3 matter most?

Okay, here is Dobbie's answer.

We find that a teacher’s prior achievement, leadership experience, and perseverance are associated with student gains in math. Leadership experience and commitment to the TFA mission are associated with gains in English. The TFA admissions measures are also associated with improved classroom behavior. These results suggest that teacher success can be predicted at the time of hire.

Here is the whole 22-page paper.

How well did you score?