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Could I Pass the Haberman Star Teacher Test?

Voice of ExperienceMartin Haberman's research reveals that not just anyone can or should teach in high-poverty schools. Wondering if she has what it takes to succeed in a challenging setting, Brenda Dyck decided to take Haberman's "Star Teacher" On-Line Pre-Screener test. Here she shares the results. Included: Web sites to help teachers assess and reflect on their teaching skills.

In my last Voice of Experience reflections, Do You Have What It Takes to Teach in a High-Poverty School?, I introduced the work of Martin Haberman. Haberman has studied the characteristics of successful teachers who work with high-poverty populations. He has translated those characteristics into interview questions that might predict a teacher's likelihood of success in such schools. As I reflected on Haberman's rigorous characteristics of effective teachers, I had to catch my breath! How would I fare if measured on those attributes? I needed to find out

There was something rather sobering about taking Haberman's Star Teacher Test. First of all, I've never thought of myself as a star teacher. Those kinds of teachers win national awards and draw large crowds when they present at conferences. But after reading Haberman's description of a star teacher, I realized that being a star teacher was actually about more than fanfare and glitz. "Star teachers" were everyday educators who, because of their unique skill-sets, were successful teaching children who caused most educators to throw up their hands in defeat. According to Dr. Haberman, star teachers are persistent; they keep going when the tough get going.

I wondered if I was one of those teachers.

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As I logged onto Haberman's "Star Teacher" test site, I was secretly thankful for the privacy this online multiple-choice test offered. No one needed to know if I turned out to be significantly lacking in the ten beliefs demonstrated by teachers who have a proven track record teaching in diverse classrooms in high-poverty schools. No one but me, that is

As I began to answer the test questions, I knew I was under deep scrutiny. I spent a lot of time trying to second-guess the answers the test-writing folks might be looking for.

After a few minutes of trying to play the test-taking game -- and growing weary of it already -- I roped myself back to reality. I realized that I needed to concentrate on discovering my right answers, not theirs.

As I tried to focus on authenticity over correctness, it became evident that the Haberman folks were prepared for people like me. Certain question themes reoccurred with regularity. Each question was worded differently and placed in a different context than the one before. It was as if they were needling me with the same question over and over in hopes of finding out what I really would do when confronted with specific situations. The test's 50 questions repeatedly poked and prodded me about:

  • my level of persistence;
  • my ability to organize and plan within a complex classroom organization;
  • the value I placed on student learning;
  • my competence in moving theory into practice;
  • my ability to work with diversity among at-risk students;
  • the variety of ways I approach students;
  • my ability to survive in a large, depersonalized organization;
  • the criteria I use to determine teaching success;
  • the criteria I use to determine student success; and
  • how I plan to deal with mistakes made in my classroom.

As I pressed the submit button I wondered what strengths and weaknesses would show up. I thought back to star teachers like Betsy Rogers and Ron Clark, who have used the recognition they received for their work with at-risk students to inform the public about the need for highly accomplished teachers in high-poverty schools.

I also wondered if being an exemplary teacher was only part of that success equation A recent ASCD Research Brief, Characteristics of High-Performing, High-Poverty Schools, had made it clear to me that while the teacher plays a significant role in the success of students in high-poverty schools, a variety of support practices in the most successful schools provide the underpinnings that can lead to teachers' success. Those support practices include:

  • a school-wide ethic of high expectations;
  • caring and respectful relations between stakeholders;
  • a strong academic and instructional focus;
  • regular assessment of individual students;
  • collaborative decision-making structures and a non-authoritarian principal;
  • strong faculty morale and work ethic; and
  • coordinated staffing strategies.


The results of my Haberman Star Teacher interview revealed strengths in many of the ten areas.

And one notable weakness: my organizational abilities.

What can I say? My mother would tell you the same thing!

Organization has always been a thorn in my professional flesh. It is one of the areas I work on each year. I've made progress, but the watchful eye of the Haberman test spotted this area where work still needs to be done.


So was the test worth taking? With out a doubt! Going through the assessment process got me thinking more deeply about my beliefs about schools, teaching children, and learning -- and how those things either benefit my students' learning or interfere with it.

Often I've pondered how student success hinges on a so many personal characteristics, ideas, and beliefs working in concert with one another. Prominent astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington said it so well: "We used to think that if we knew one, we knew two, because one and one are two. We are finding that we must learn a great deal more about 'and'."


The Haberman Education Foundation
Take the "Star Teacher" On-Line Pre-Screener and read about Martin Haberman's efforts to help 15 million at-risk students in the U.S.

The Teaching Perspectives Inventory
Looking for another way to examine your teaching practices? This free online inventory will help you collect your thoughts and summarize your ideas about teaching. Find out if your teaching beliefs are in line with what happens in your classroom.

Brenda Dyck teaches at Master's Academy and College in Calgary, Alberta (Canada). In addition to teaching sixth grade math, Brenda works with her staff in the area of technology integration. Her "Electronic Thread" column is a regular feature in the National Middle School Association's Journal, Middle Ground. Brenda is a teacher-editor for Midlink magazine.

Article by Brenda Dyck
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