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True Grit: Trait-Level Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals Predicts Effectiveness and Retention Among Novice Teachers


by Claire Robertson-Kraft & Angela Duckworth — 2014

Background/Context: Surprisingly little progress has been made in linking teacher effectiveness and retention to factors observable at the time of hire. The rigors of teaching, particularly in low-income school districts, suggest the importance of personal qualities that have so far been difficult to measure objectively.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: In this study, we examine the predictive validity of personal qualities not typically collected by school districts during the hiring process. Specifically, we use a psychological framework to explore how biographical data on grit, a disposition toward perseverance and passion for long-term goals, explains variance in novice teachers’ effectiveness and retention.

Research Design: In two prospective, longitudinal samples of novice teachers assigned to schools in low-income districts (N = 154 and N = 307, respectively), raters blind to outcomes followed a 7-point rubric to rate grit from information on college activities and work experience extracted from teachers’ résumés. We used independent-samples, t-tests, and binary logistic regression models to predict teacher effectiveness and retention from these grit ratings as well as from other information (e.g., SAT scores, college GPA, and interview ratings of leadership potential) available at the time of hire.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Grittier teachers outperformed their less gritty colleagues and were less likely to leave their classrooms midyear. Notably, no other variables in our analysis predicted either effectiveness or retention. These findings contribute to a better understanding of what leads some novice teachers to outperform others and remain committed to the profession. In addition to informing policy decisions surrounding teacher recruitment and development, this investigation highlights the potential of a psychological framework to explain why some individuals are more successful than others in meeting the rigorous demands of teaching.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 3, 2014, p. -
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17352, Date Accessed: 8/20/2014 10:35:01 AM

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About the Author
  • Claire Robertson-Kraft
    University of Pennsylvania
    E-mail Author
    CLAIRE ROBERTSON-KRAFT is a doctoral candidate in education policy at the University of Pennsylvania. She studies teacher effectiveness and retention and is specifically focused on policies related to teacher recruitment, evaluation, and compensation. Prior to graduate school, she served as the associate director of Operation Public Education, a school reform effort helping districts develop new teacher evaluation systems, and worked as a third grade teacher and program director with Teach For America in Houston. Recent publications include Hershberg, T., & Robertson-Kraft, C. (2009). A grand bargain for education reform: New rewards and supports for new accountability. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press; Gold, E., Good, D., & Robertson-Kraft, C. (2011). Philadelphia’s Renaissance Schools: A report on start-up and early implementation. Research for Action, Philadelphia, PA.
  • Angela Duckworth
    University of Pennsylvania
    E-mail Author
    ANGELA LEE DUCKWORTH is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. She studies non-IQ competencies, including self-control and grit, which predict achievement. Prior to her career in research, she founded a non-profit summer school for low-income children, which won the Better Government Award for the state of Massachusetts and was profiled as a Harvard Kennedy School case study. She has also been a McKinsey management consultant and, for five years, a math teacher in the public schools of San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New York City. She was named to the 2013 class of MacArthur fellows. Recent publications include Duckworth, A. L., Quinn, P., & Tsukayama, E. (2012). What No Child Left Behind leaves behind: The roles of IQ and self-control in predicting standardized achievement test scores and report card grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104(2), 439-451; Duckworth, A. L., Quinn, P. D., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2009). Positive predictors of teacher effectiveness. Journal of Positive Psychology, 19, 540-547.
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