Amanda Ripley examines that important question in the January/February issue of the Atlantic.

Ripley looked at Teacher for America teachers for clues and found that unconventional attributes like a history of perseverance, life satisfaction, and achievement in leadership positions are good predictors of teacher success. (The article does not mention it, but these factors are probably related to resilience.) Grade point average, selectivity of college attended, and, in some subjects like math, training in the subject area are also good predictors.

Unfortunately, these attributes are secondary in the conventional public school hiring process, which is a joke. The public schools immediately screen out those without the proper credentials (certification) and college degrees (in education). Among those who are left, principals consider years of experience, advanced degrees, and the like. In other words, personality traits and non-educational factors are tertiary concerns, at best. Simply put, the public school hiring process systematically eliminates candidates with the best chance of success.

My wife (a public school teacher) and I discuss this issue often and agree that there are certain personality types that succeed and some that do not. For example, teachers who do not establish clear personal and intellectual boundaries with students never succeed. That may sound like common sense, but too many ed school graduates go into the classroom believing that being pals with the students in their first priority. Kids are looking for leaders, not friends.