American Institutes for Research


boy reading bookCALDER provides timely and accessible independent research and analysis on education policy to policy leaders, researchers, media and the public. Our research scientists are capitalizing on state longitudinal databases- what are emerging as the richest new sources of information on schools, teachers, and students in the U.S.- to address some critical questions about education policy.

Our K-12 research focuses on three areas of impact for key educational outcomes: teacher workforce policy (hiring practices, compensation, and certification, preparation); governance policy (accountability and choice); and changing community and economic conditions (changing student demographics and resources).

Our postsecondary and labor market research focuses primarily on the aquisition of postsecondary credentials and their returns in the labor market.

We explore these issues across different states. To view research by state or author, click on state partners on the navigation panel to the left.

Working Papers | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | Jump to Policy Briefs
Topics | Teachers & Principals | School Choice, Accountability, Turnaround | Other PreK-12 | Postsecondary & Labor Market Outcomes 

2014 | Back to Top

Performance Screens for School Improvement: The Case of Teacher Tenure Reform in New York City

Working Paper 115
Author(s): Susanna LoebLuke C. Miller, and James Wyckoff

This paper describes teacher tenure reforms first enacted by the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) during the 2009-10 academic year (AY) and the changes in the district’s teacher workforce following the reforms. We show that the reforms dramatically changed the proportion of eligible teachers receiving tenure, as well as the career paths of early career teachers, more generally.

Published: June 2014 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text 

The Effect of Banning Affirmative Action on Human Capital Accumulation Prior to College Entry

Working Paper 114
Author(s): Kate Antonovics and Ben Backes

This paper examines how banning affirmative action in university admissions affects both overall academic achievement and the racial gap in academic achievement prior to college entry. In particular, focusing on college-bound high school students, we use a difference-in- difference methodology to analyze the impact of the end of race-based affirmative action at the University of California in 1998 on both the overall level of SAT scores and high school GPA, and the racial gap in SAT scores and high school GPA. Our primary conclusion is that academic achievement changed very little after the ban.

Published: June 2014 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text 

Examining Spillover Effects from Teach For America Corps Members in Miami- Dade County Public Schools

Working Paper 113
Author(s): Michael Hansen, Ben Backes, Victoria Brady, Zeyu Xu

Despite a large body of evidence documenting the effectiveness of Teach For America (TFA) corps members at raising the math test scores of their students, little is known about the program’s impact at the school level. TFA’s recent placement strategy in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), where large numbers of TFA corps members are placed as clusters into a targeted set of disadvantaged schools, provides an opportunity to evaluate the impact of the TFA program on broader school performance. This study examines whether the influx of TFA corps members led to a spillover effect on other teachers’ performance. We find that many of the schools chosen to participate in the cluster strategy experienced large subsequent gains in math achievement. These gains were driven in part by the composition effect of having larger numbers of effective TFA corps members. However, we do not find any evidence that the clustering strategy led to any spillover effect on school-wide performance. In other words, our estimates suggest that extra student gains for TFA corps members under the clustering strategy would be equivalent to the gains that would result from an alternate placement strategy where corps members were evenly distributed across schools.

Published: June 2014 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text | Executive Summary

Returns to Teaching Experience: Student Achievement and Motivation in Middle School

Working Paper 112
Author(s): Helen F. Ladd and Lucy C. Sorensen

We use rich longitudinally matched administrative data on students and teachers in North Carolina to examine the patterns of differential effectiveness by teachers’ years of experience. The paper contributes to the literature by focusing on middle school teachers and by extending the analysis to student outcomes beyond test scores. Once we control statistically for the quality of individual teachers by the use of teacher fixed effects, we find large returns to experience for middle school teachers in the form both of higher test scores and improvements in student behavior, with the clearest behavioral effects emerging for reductions in student absenteeism. Moreover these returns extend well beyond the first few years of teaching. The paper contributes to policy debates by documenting that teachers can and do learn on the job.

Published: March 2014 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Which Plan to Choose? The Determinants of Pension System Choice for Public School Teachers

Working Paper 111
Author(s): Dan Goldhaber and Cyrus Grout

This paper studies the pension preferences of Washington State public school teachers by examining two periods of time during which teachers were able to choose between enrolling in a traditional defined benefit plan and a hybrid plan with defined benefit and defined contribution components. Our findings suggest that a large share of teachers are willing to transfer from a traditional DB plan to a hybrid pension plan, and that the probability that a teacher will choose to transfer is related to financial incentives and factors related to risk preferences. There is evidence that more effective teachers are more likely to enroll in the hybrid pension plan, suggesting that states could reduce the financial risk associated with strict defined benefit pension systems without sacrificing the desirability of pension plans to employees.

Published: January 2014 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Right-sizing the Classroom: Making the Most of Great Teachers

Working Paper 110
Author(s): Michael Hansen

This paper examines the value of strategically assigning disproportionately larger classes to the strongest teachers in order to optimize student learning in the face of differential teacher effectiveness. The rationale is straightforward: Larger classes for the best teachers benefit the pupils who are reassigned to them; they also help the less effective teachers improve their instruction by enabling them to concentrate on fewer students. But just how much of a difference could manipulating class sizes in this way make for overall student learning and access to effective teaching? This study performs a simulation based on North Carolina data to estimate plausible student outcomes under this approach.
In the North Carolina data, I find there is a very slight tendency to place more students in the classes of effective teachers; but still only about 25 percent of students are taught by the top 25 percent of teachers. Intensively reallocating eighth-grade students—so that the most effective teachers have up to twelve more pupils than the average classroom—may produce gains equivalent to adding roughly two-and-a-half extra weeks of school. Even adding a handful of students to the most effective eighth-grade teachers (up to six more than the school’s average) produces gains in math and science akin to extending the school year by nearly two weeks or, equivalently, to removing the lowest 5 percent of teachers from the classroom. The potential impacts on learning are more modest in fifth grade, where the large majority of teachers are in self-contained classrooms.
Results show that this strategy shows an overall improvement in student access to effective teaching, yet gaps in access for economically disadvantaged students persist. For instance, disadvantaged eighth-grade students are about 8 percent less likely than non-disadvantaged peers to be assigned to a teacher in the top 25 percent of performance. This gap in access changes little in spite of the policy putting more students in front of effective teachers— because the pool of available teachers in high-poverty schools does not change under this strategy. Thus, this policy alone shows little promise in reducing achievement gaps.

Published: January 2014 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

America’s College Drop-Out Epidemic: Understanding the College Drop-Out Population

Working Paper 109
Author(s): Erin Dunlop Velez

Over 40% of full time four-year college students fail to earn a bachelor’s degree within six years, and many never complete their education. This paper describes this sizeable fraction of the U.S. higher education market and estimates counterfactual predicted probabilities of degree completion, had students made different initial postsecondary enrollment choices. Using data from the NLSY97, a rich nationally representative data set, we make several observations. First, policies aimed at increasing postsecondary degree attainment by encouraging college enrollment are likely to be unproductive, given that students who are currently not enrolling in postsecondary education have very low predicted probabilities of completion, due to their low academic preparedness. This holds true for enrollment in both two-year and four-year colleges. Second, we find that students who drop-out of four-year colleges generally also have very low predicted probabilities of completion, although this varies across student groups. Finally, we conclude that had four-year college drop-outs begun their postsecondary careers at a two-year college, their predicted probabilities of postsecondary degree completion would be significantly higher. While most of this increase in degree completion comes through increased associate’s degree attainment, about a third of four-year college drop-outs would have a higher chance of bachelor’s degree completion, had they begun college at a two-year institution. While our results are only a descriptive analysis, and should not be interpreted as causal findings, until more is understood about the types of students who drop-out of college and potential reasons why, there will likely be little progress in reducing the college failure rate in the U.S.

Published: January 2014 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Quantile Treatment Effects of College Quality on Earnings: Evidence from Administrative Data in Texas

Working Paper 108
Author(s): Rodney J. Andrews, Jing Li, and Michael F. Lovenheim

This paper uses administrative data on schooling and earnings from Texas to estimate the effect of college quality on the distribution of earnings. We proxy for college quality using the college sector from which students graduate and focus on identifying how graduating from UT-Austin, Texas A&M or a community college affects the distribution of earnings relative to graduating from a non-flagship university in Texas. Our methodological approach uses the rich set of observable student academic ability and background characteristics in the data to adjust the earnings distributions across college sectors for the fact that college sector quality is correlated with factors that also affect earnings. Although our mean earnings estimates are similar to previous work in this area, we find evidence of substantial heterogeneity in the returns to college quality. At UT-Austin, the returns increase across the earnings distribution, while at Texas A&M they tend to decline with one’s place in the distribution. For community college graduates, the returns relative to non-flagship four-year graduates are negative across most of the distribution of earnings, but they approach zero and become positive for higher earners. Our data also allow us to estimate effects separately by race and ethnicity, and we find that historically under-represented minorities experience the highest returns in the upper tails of the earnings distribution, particularly among UT-Austin and community college graduates. While we focus on graduates, we also show our estimates are robust to examining college attendees as well as to many other changes in the sample and to the estimation strategy. Overall, these estimates provide the first direct evidence of the extent of heterogeneity in the effect of college quality on subsequent earnings, and our estimates point to the need to consider such heterogeneity in human capital models that incorporate college quality.

Published: January 2014 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Do Students’ College Major Choices Respond to Changes in Wages?

Working Paper 107
Author(s): Mark C. Long, Dan Goldhaber, and Nick Huntington-Klein

We evaluate whether there is a causal connection between changes in wages by occupation and subsequent changes in the number of college majors completed in associated fields. Using aggregate national data and individual-level data from Washington State, we find statistically significant, although modest, relationships between wages and majors. College majors are most strongly related to wages observed three years earlier, when students were college freshmen. Majors with a tight connection to particular occupations show a stronger response to wages. The overall modest relationship suggests that policies which inform students about labor market outcomes are unlikely to greatly change student behavior.

Published: January 2014 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

The Efficiency Implications of Using Proportional Evaluations to Shape the Teaching Workforce

Working Paper 106
Author(s): Cory Koedel and Jiaxi Li

We examine the efficiency implications of imposing proportionality in teacher evaluation systems. Proportional evaluations force comparisons to be between equally-circumstanced teachers. We contrast proportional evaluations with global evaluations, which compare teachers to each other regardless of teaching circumstance. We consider a policy where administrators use the ratings from the evaluation system to help shape the teaching workforce, and define efficiency in terms of student achievement. Our analysis indicates that proportionality can be imposed in teacher evaluation systems without efficiency costs under a wide range of evaluation and estimation conditions. Proportionality is efficiency-enhancing in some cases. These findings are notable given that proportional teacher evaluations offer a number of other policy benefits.

Published: January 2014 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Knocking on the Door to the Teaching Profession? Modeling the Entry of Prospective Teachers into the Workforce

Working Paper 105
Author(s): Dan Goldhaber, John M. Krieg, and Roddy Theobald

We use a unique longitudinal sample of student teachers (“interns”) from six Washington state teacher training institutions to investigate patterns of entry into the teaching workforce. Specifically, we estimate split population models that simultaneously estimate the impact of individual characteristics and student teaching experiences on the timing and probability of initial hiring as a public school teacher. Not surprisingly, we find that interns endorsed to teach in “difficult-to-staff” areas are more likely to be hired as teachers than interns endorsed in other areas. Younger interns, white interns, and interns who did their student teaching in suburban schools are also more likely to find a teaching job. Prospective teachers who do their internships at schools that have more teacher turnover are more likely to find employment, often at those schools. Finally, interns with higher credential exam scores are more likely to be hired by the school where they did their student teaching. Contrary to expectations, few of the measures of the quality or the experience of an intern’s cooperating teacher are predictive of workforce entry in the expected direction.

Published: January 2014 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Learning that Lasts: Unpacking Variation in Teachers’ Effects on Students’ Long-Term Knowledge

Working Paper 104
Author(s): Benjamin Master, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff

Measures of teachers’ “value added” to student achievement play an increasingly central role in k-12 teacher policy and practice, in part because they have been shown to predict teachers’ long-term impacts on students’ life outcomes. However, little research has examined variation in the long-term effects of teachers with similar value-added performance. In this study, we investigate variation in the persistence of teachers’ value-added effects on student achievement in New York City. We separate persistent effects into general effects that improve both the subject taught (math or English language arts (ELA)) and the other area of measured achievement and subject-specific effects which improve only the subject taught. Two findings emerge. First, a teacher’s value-added to ELA achievement has substantial crossover effects on long-term math performance. That is, having a better ELA teacher affects both math and ELA performance in a future year. Conversely, math teachers have only minimal long-term effects on ELA performance; their effects are far more subject-specific. Second, we identify substantial heterogeneity in the persistence of English Language Arts (ELA) teachers’ effects across observable student, teacher, and school characteristics. In particular, teachers in schools serving more poor, minority, and previously low-scoring students have less persistence than other teachers with the same value-added scores. Moreover, ELA teachers with stronger academic backgrounds have more persistent effects on student achievement, as do schools staffed with a higher proportion of such teachers. The results indicate that teachers’ effects on students’ long-term skills can vary as a function of instructional content and quality in ways that are not fully captured by value-added measures of teacher effectiveness.

Published: January 2014 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Charter High Schools’ Effect on Long-Term Attainment and Earnings

Working Paper 103
Author(s): Kevin Booker, Tim Sass, Brian Gill, and Ron Zimmer

Since their inception in 1992, the number of charter schools has grown to more than 6,000 in 40 states, serving more than 2 million students. Various studies have examined charter schools’ impacts on test scores, and a few have begun to examine longer-term outcomes including graduation and college attendance. This paper is the first to estimate charter schools’ effects on student earnings, alongside effects on educational attainment. Using data from Chicago and Florida, we find evidence that charter high schools may have substantial positive effects on persistence in college as well as high-school graduation and college entry. In Florida, where we can link students to workforce data in adulthood, we also find evidence that charter high schools produce large positive effects on subsequent earnings.

Published: January 2014 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

2013 | Back to Top

Incentives, Selection, and Teacher Performance: Evidence from IMPACT

Working Paper 102
Author(s): Thomas Dee & Jim Wyckoff

Teachers in the United States are compensated largely on the basis of fixed schedules that reward experience and credentials. However, there is a growing interest in whether performance-based incentives based on rigorous teacher evaluations can improve teacher retention and performance. The evidence available to date has been mixed at best. This study presents novel evidence on this topic based on IMPACT, the controversial teacher-evaluation system introduced in the District of Columbia Public Schools by then-Chancellor Michelle Rhee. IMPACT implemented uniquely high-powered incentives linked to multiple measures of teacher performance (i.e., several structured observational measures as well as test performance). We present regression-discontinuity (RD) estimates that compare the retention and performance outcomes among low-performing teachers whose ratings placed them near the threshold that implied a strong dismissal threat. We also compare outcomes among high-performing teachers whose rating placed them near a threshold that implied an unusually large financial incentive. Our RD results indicate that dismissal threats increased the voluntary attrition of low-performing teachers by 11 percentage points (i.e., more than 50 percent) and improved the performance of teachers who remained by 0.27 of a teacher-level standard deviation. We also find evidence that financial incentives further improved the performance of high-performing teachers (effect size = 0.24).

Published: October 2013 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Teacher Performance Trajectories in High and Lower-Poverty Schools

Working Paper 101
Author(s): Zeyu XuUmut Özek, Michael Hansen

This study explores whether teacher performance trajectory over time differs by school poverty settings. Focusing on elementary school mathematics teachers in North Carolina and Florida, we find no systematic relationship between school student poverty rates and teacher performance trajectories. In both high (>=60% FRL) and lower-poverty (<60% FRL) schools, teacher performance improves the fastest in the first five years and then flattens out in years five to ten. Teacher performance growth resumes between year ten and 15 in North Carolina but remains flat in Florida. In both school poverty settings, there is significant variation in teacher performance trajectories. At all career stages, the fastest-growing teachers (75th percentile) improve by .02-.04 standard deviations more in student gain scores annually than slower teachers (25th percentile). Our findings suggest that the lack of productivity “return” to experience in high-poverty schools reported in the literature is unlikely to be the result of differential teacher learning in high and lower-poverty schools.

Published: July 2013 (Updated March 2014) | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Hold Back To Move Forward? Early Grade Retention and Student Misbehavior

Working Paper 100
Author(s): Umut Özek

Test-based accountability has become the new norm in public education over the last decade. In many states and school districts nationwide, student performance in standardized tests plays an important role in high-stakes decisions such as grade retention. This study examines the effects of grade retention on student misbehavior in Florida, which requires students with reading skills below grade level to be retained in the 3rd grade. The regression discontinuity estimates suggest that grade retention increases the likelihood of disciplinary incidents and suspensions in the years that follow. The findings also suggest that these adverse effects are concentrated among economically disadvantaged students.

Published: April 2013 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Equal Treatment as a Means of Evaluating Public School Assignment Mechanisms

Working Paper 99
Author(s): Umut Özek

A critical element in the sustainability of any public policy is the fair treatment of ‘similar’ individuals. This paper introduces a new dimension of merit to evaluate public school assignment mechanisms based on this notion of horizontal equity. The findings reveal that all of the prominent assignment mechanisms discussed in the literature fail to satisfy this ‘equal treatment’ criterion. I also show that there exists no student-optimal stable mechanism that also satisfies equal treatment, illustrating the tradeoff between constrained efficiency and horizontal equity. These findings surface a serious cause for concern about the public school assignment procedures used in major school districts.

Published: May 2013 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Which Plan to Choose? The Determinants of Pension System Choice for Public School Teachers

Working Paper 98
Author(s): Dan Goldhaber and Cyrus Grout

This paper studies the pension preferences of Washington State public school teachers by examining two periods of time during which teachers were able to choose between enrolling in a traditional defined benefit plan and a hybrid plan with defined benefit and defined contribution components. Our findings suggest that a large share of teachers are willing to transfer from a traditional DB plan to a hybrid pension plan, and that the probability that a teacher will choose to transfer is related to financial incentives and factors related to risk preferences. Among new hires, observable teacher and job characteristics explain little of the pension decision, but there is some evidence that more effective teachers are more likely to enroll in the hybrid pension plan. The general popularity of the hybrid plan suggests that states could reduce the financial risk associated with DB pensions without sacrificing the desirability of pension plans to employees.

Published: April 2013 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Characteristics of Schools Successful in STEM: Evidence from Two States’ Longitudinal Data

Working Paper 97
Author(s): Michael Hansen

Current federal education policies promote learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and the participation of minority students in these fields. Using longitudinal data on students in Florida and North Carolina, value-added estimates in math and science are generated to categorize schools into performance levels and identify differences in school STEM measures by performance levels. Several STEM-relevant variables show a significant association with effectiveness in math and science, including STEM teacher turnover, calculus and early algebra participation, and math and science instructional indices created from survey items in the data. Surprisingly, a negative association between students’ STEM course participation and success in STEM is consistently documented across both states, in addition to low participation of underrepresented minority students in successful schools in STEM.

Published: April 2013 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Connecting the Disconnected: Improving Education and Employment Outcomes Among Disadvantaged Youth

Working Paper 96
Author(s): Peter B. Edelman and Harry Holzer

In this paper we will briefly review recent trends in employment outcomes for disadvantaged youth, focusing specifically on those who have become "disconnected" from school and the labor market, and why these trends have occurred. We then review a range of policy prescriptions that might improve those outcomes. These policies include: 1) Efforts to enhance education and employment outcomes, both among in-school youth who are at risk of dropping out and becoming disconnected as well as out- of-school youth who have already done so; 2) Policies to increase earnings and incent more labor force participation among youth, such as expanding the eligibility of childless adults (and especially non- custodial parents) for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); and 3) Specific policies to reduce barriers to employment faced by ex-offenders and non-custodial parents (NCPs). We also consider policies that target the demand side of the labor market, in efforts to spur the willingness of employers to hire these young people and perhaps to improve the quality of jobs available to them.

Published: May 2013 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

The Effects of Poor Neonatal Health on Children’s Cognitive Development

Working Paper 95
Author(s): David Figlio, Jonathan Guryan, Krzysztof Karbownik and Jeffrey Roth

We make use of a new data resource, merged birth and school records for all children born in Florida from 1992 to 2002, to study the effects of birth weight on cognitive development from kindergarten through schooling. Using twin fixed effects models, we find that the effects of birth weight on cognitive development are essentially constant through the school career; that these effects are very similar across a wide range of family backgrounds; and that they are invariant to measures of school quality. We conclude that the effects of poor neonatal health on adult outcomes are therefore set very early.

Published: March 2013 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

What Do Stafford Loans Actually Buy You? - The Effect of Stafford Loan Access on Community College Students

Working Paper 94
Author(s): Erin Dunlop

Students who do not have access to credit may not be able to complete their optimal level of post-secondary education. More than one out of every ten community college students nationwide attends a community college that does not allow access to federal college loans. This paper takes advantage of plausibly exogenous variation in whether a student's community college offers student loans to evaluate the effect of access to Stafford loans on student outcomes, including educational attainment, employment, and finances. Using the Beginning Postsecondary Student Study of 2004, I show that access to federal Stafford loans does not affect the decision to attend community college. However, I find that Stafford loan access increases overall borrowing among community college students by $262 a year and increases the likelihood of transferring to a four-year school by 5.6 percentage points. Additionally, for high-need and female students, loan access increases their total months of enrollment and dependent students' bachelor's degree attainment as well. These sizable effects of loan access on student behavior indicate that federal loans relax credit constraints for some community college students.

Published: February 2013 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Color-Blind Affirmative Action and Student Quality

Working Paper 93
Author(s): Kate Antonovics and Benjamin Backes

This paper assesses the extent to which schools in the University of California (UC) system were able to restore racial diversity among admitted students using race-neutral polices after California’s ban on race-based affirmative action. Using administrative data from the UC from before and after the ban on race-contingent admissions policies, we present evidence that UC campuses changed the weight given to SAT scores, grades and family background characteristics after the end of affirmative action, and that these changes were able to substantially (though far from completely) offset the fall in minority admissions rate after the ban on affirmative action. In addition, we explore the possible inefficiencies generated by these changes in the admissions process, and find that while the new admissions rules affected the composition of admitted students, it is not clear that overall student quality declined. These results have important implications in light of the declining number of public universities in the United States that practice race-based affirmative action.

Published: February 2013 | Download: pdf icon new  Full Text|Published

How Much of a “Running Start” do Dual Enrollment Programs Provide Students?

Working Paper 92
Author(s): James Cowan and Dan Goldhaber

We study a popular dual enrollment program in Washington State using a new administrative database linking high school and postsecondary enrollments. Conditional on prior high school performance and basic demographic and economic covariates, dual enrollment students are more likely to attend any college, but they are no more likely to attend college full-time and are less likely to attend a four-year college. Supplementary analyses suggest selection on pretreatment college enrollment plans explains some of the initial diversionary effect of dual enrollment. Finally, we consider the role of common data limitations in interpreting results of dual enrollment studies.

Published: September 2013 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Losing HOPE: Financial Aid and the Line Between College and Work

Working Paper 91
Author(s): Celeste K. Carruthers and Umut Ozek

Although a wealth of research has shown that financial aid reduces hurdles to college enrollment, relatively little is known about how aid affects students after they are enrolled, much less how students react to the common occurrence of losing aid midway through their college careers. Using longitudinal data on four cohorts of Tennessee public college students, we find that failing to renew merit scholarships decreases credit loads, decreases the likelihood of declaring a major, increases labor force participation and earnings while enrolled, and increases the likelihood of leaving college without a degree for the workforce. Together, findings suggest that losing financial aid weakens students’ engagement with college, particularly at the extensive margin.

Published: February 2013 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Do First Impressions Matter? Improvement in Early Career Teacher Effectiveness

Working Paper 90
Author(s): Allison Atteberry, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff

Educational policymakers struggle, largely unsuccessfully, to find ways to improve the quality of the teacher workforce. The early career period represents a unique opportunity to identify struggling teachers, examine the likelihood of future improvement, and make strategic pre-tenure investments in improvement as well as dismissals to increase teaching quality. To date, only a little is known about the dynamics of teacher performance in the first five years. This paper asks how much teachers vary in performance improvement during their first five years of teaching and to what extent initial job performance predicts later performance. We find that, on average, initial performance is quite predictive of future performance, far more so than typically measured teacher characteristics. Predictions are particularly powerful at the extremes. We employ these predictions to explore the likelihood of personnel actions that inappropriately distinguish among high and low performance when such predictions are mistaken. We also examine the much less-discussed costs of failure to distinguish performance when meaningful differences exist. The results have important consequences for improving the quality of the teacher workforce.

Published: February 2013 (revised March 2014) | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Investigating the Role of Human Resources in School Turnaround: A Decomposition of Improving Schools in Two States

Working Paper 89
Author(s): Michael Hansen

Using longitudinal data on spanning the 2002-03 through 2007-08 school years in Florida and North Carolina, this paper decomposes the workforce dynamics among teachers and principals in low-performing schools that significantly improved their performance. In general, I find strong, consistent evidence of human capital development (i.e., improvements in the productivity of the teachers and principals already in the school) accounting for the increased performance in turnaround schools. These findings are robust to the inclusion of school random effects, alternative categorizations of both teachers and turnaround schools, and are observed across elementary and middle school samples in both states. There is also general evidence of productive incoming teachers helping to improve these turnaround schools, but little evidence to support negative attrition specific to these schools played a role. These findings are important as they document large improvements in the joint productivity of teachers in low-performing schools, a finding which is out of step with current federal efforts to improve schools that implicitly assume teacher productivity is essentially fixed over time.

Published: February 2013 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Developmental Education in North Carolina Community Colleges

Working Paper 88
Author(s): Charles T. ClotfelterHelen F. Ladd, Clara Muschkin, and Jacob L. Vigdor

This paper contributes to the empirical literature on remediation in community colleges by using policy variation across North Carolina’s community colleges to examine how remediation affects various outcomes for traditional-age college students. We find that being required to take a remedial course (as we define it in this paper) either in math or in English significantly reduces a student’s probability of success in college and also the probability that a student ever passes a college-level math or English course. Among students who are required to take a remedial course in their first semester, however, we find no adverse effects on the probability of returning for another semester. We also find differential effects by a student’s prior achievement level, family income and gender. Despite the difference in the methodologies, our main findings are generally consistent with, albeit somewhat more negative, than those from prior studies based on regression discontinuity designs.

Published: February 2013 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Algebra for 8th Graders: Evidence on its Effects from 10 North Carolina Districts

Working Paper 87
Author(s): Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen F. Ladd, and Jacob L. Vigdor

This paper examines the effects of policies that increase the number of students who take the first course in algebra in 8th grade, rather than waiting until 9th grade. Extending previous research that focused on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system, we use data for the 10 largest districts in North Carolina. We identify the effects of accelerating the timetable for taking algebra by using data on multiple cohorts grouped by decile of prior achievement and exploiting the fact that policy-induced shifts in the timing of algebra occur at different times in different districts to different deciles of students. The expanded data make it possible to examine heterogeneity across students in the effect of taking algebra early. We find negative effects among students in the bottom 60% of the prior achievement distribution. In addition, we find other sources of heterogeneity in effects.

Published: February 2013 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Postsecondary Education and Labor Market Outcomes in the U.S.

Working Paper 86
Author(s): Harry Holzer and Erin Dunlop

In this paper, we seek to provide a fairly comprehensive and up-to-date snapshot of the most important postsecondary education and labor market outcomes in the U.S. using two nationally representative sources of data: The Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and The National Educational Longitudinal Survey (NELS). This national overview can serve as an important benchmark for the growing literature using administrative state level data to explore educational outcomes. We find that postsecondary educational attainment has risen modestly over the past two decades, with greater gains in BA attainment in the 1990s and in certificate and AA attainment since 2000 (though attainment rose in response to the Great Recession at all levels). Both younger and older cohorts of blacks and Hispanics have made relative progress in the attainment of certificates and AAs but still lag behind whites in the entry into and completion of BA programs; completion rates in BA programs also lag substantially for those from low-income families or with weak academic achievement in high school. There are labor market returns for all postsecondary credentials, including certificates and AA degrees, though these vary across field of study. Large gender gaps exist in field of study, with men favoring high paying fields. Lastly, we find that high school achievement measures explain much of the racial gaps in BA attainment and annual earnings and some of the gaps by family background, though they account for little of the continuing gender gap in annual earnings.

Published: May 2013 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text 

2012 | Back to Top

Good Workers for Good Jobs: Improving Education and Workforce Systems in the US

Working Paper 85
Author(s): Harry Holzer

Stagnant earnings and growing inequality in the US labor market reflect both a slowdown in the growth of worker skills and the growing matching of good-paying jobs to skilled workers. Improving the ties between colleges, workforce institutions, and employers would help more workers gain the needed skills. Evaluation evidence shows that training programs linked to employers and good-paying jobs are often cost-effective. Helping more states develop such programs and systems would help raise worker earnings and reduce inequality.

Published: December 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text | Journal Publication

The Effects of Texas's Targeted Pre-Kindergarten Program on Academic Performance

Working Paper 84
Author(s): Rodney J. Andrews, Paul Jargowsky and Kristin Kuhne

There has been a resurgence in research that investigates the efficacy of early investments as a means of reducing gaps in academic performance. However, the strongest evidence for these effects comes from experimental evaluations of small, highly enriched programs. We add to this literature by assessing the extent to which a large-scale public program, Texas's targeted pre-Kindergarten (pre-K), affects scores on math and reading achievement tests, the likelihood of being retained in grade, and the probability that a student receives special education services. We find that having participated in Texas's targeted pre-K program is associated with increased scores on the math and reading sections of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), reductions in the likelihood of being retained in grade, and reductions in the probability of receiving special education services. We also find that participating pre-K increases mathematics scores for students who take the Spanish version of the TAAS tests. These results show that even modest, public pre-K program implemented at scale can have important effects on students’ educational achievement.

Published: November 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Heterogeneous Paths Through College: Detailed Patterns and Relationships with Graduation and Earnings

Working Paper 83
Author(s): Rodney J. Andrews, Jing Li and Michael F. Lovenheim

A considerable fraction of college students and bachelor's degree recipients attend multiple postsecondary institutions. Despite this fact, there is scant research that examines the nature of the paths – both the number and types of institutions – that students take to obtain a bachelor's degree or through the higher education system more generally. We also know little about how contact with multiple institutions of varying quality affects postgraduate life outcomes. We use a unique panel data set from Texas that allows us to both examine in detail the paths that students take towards a bachelor's degree and estimate how contact with multiple institutions is related to degree completion and subsequent earnings. We show that the paths to a bachelor's degree are diverse and that earnings and BA receipt vary systematically with these paths. Our results call attention to the importance of developing a more complete understanding of why students transfer and what causal role transferring has on the returns to postsecondary educational investment.

Published: November 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

One Day Too Late? Mobile Students in an Era of Accountability

Working Paper 82
Author(s): Umut Özek

How to incorporate mobile students, who enter schools/classrooms after the start of the school year, into educational performance evaluations remains to be a challenge. As mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), all states currently require that a school is accountable only if the student has been enrolled in the school for a full academic year. This paper investigates the school response to this eligibility requirement using regression-discontinuity framework. I find that schools that face accountability pressure behave strategically in an attempt to boost the ‘assessed’ student performance, creating significant achievement gaps between eligible and ineligible mobile students. The findings also suggest that these achievement gaps are primarily driven by the strategic classification of students by failing schools to alter the eligible test-taker pool. I propose an alternative approach to mobile students in educational performance evaluations that eliminates this undesired incentive, which ironically affects students whom accountability systems specifically aspire not to leave behind.

Published: November 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Teacher Pension Choice: Surveying the Landscape in Washington State

Working Paper 81
Author(s): Dan Goldhaber, Cyrus Grout, Annie Pennucci, and Wesley Bignell

In this descriptive paper we detail the structure of two Washington State teacher retirement plans: a traditional defined benefit plan and a hybrid defined benefit-defined contribution plan. We provide preliminary evidence on how retirement plan structures may relate to the choices that teachers make. Our analysis of the financial incentives offered to Washington State teachers under the two different plans reveals several patterns that may influence teacher behavior. Teachers experience large gains in their pension wealth by crossing key age and experience thresholds. The relative magnitude of expected pension wealth differs sharply between the plans depending on when a teacher anticipates exiting the position, and the magnitude of anticipated returns to investment. We observe teacher choices between the traditional defined benefit plan and the hybrid plan during two time periods: 1996–1997 and 2008–2010. In 1996–1997 teachers were offered a financial inducement to switch into the newly created hybrid plan and defaulted into staying in the traditional plan if no action was taken. Teachers hired during 2008–2010 defaulted into the hybrid plan if no action was taken. Most of the teachers who were given a choice opted for the hybrid plan. This preference for the hybrid plan is more pronounced among the 1996–1997 cohort, who received a financial incentive in the form of a transfer payment for switching. The notable exception is among teachers who were over 55, and or teachers with relatively high experience levels, who were more likely to choose the traditional defined benefit plan.

Published: October 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Selecting Growth Models for School and Teacher Evaluations: Should Proportionality Matter?

Working Paper 80
Author(s): Mark Ehlert, Cory Koedel, Eric Parsons, Michael Podgursky

The specifics of how growth models should be constructed and used to evaluate schools and teachers is a topic of lively policy debate in states and school districts nationwide. In this paper we take up the question of model choice and examine three competing approaches. The first approach, reflected in the popular student growth percentiles (SGPs) framework, eschews all controls for student covariates and schooling environments. The second approach, typically associated with value-added models (VAMs), controls for student background characteristics and under some conditions can be used to identify the causal effects of schools and teachers. The third approach, also VAM-based, fully levels the playing field so that the correlation between school- and teacher-level growth measures and student demographics is essentially zero. We argue that the third approach is the most desirable for use in educational evaluation systems. Our case rests on personnel economics, incentive-design theory, and the potential role that growth measures can play in improving instruction in K-12 schools.

Published: May 2013 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Teacher Preparation Programs and Teacher Quality: Are There Real Differences Across Programs?

Working Paper 79
Author(s): Cory Koedel, Eric Parsons, Michael Podgursky, and Mark Ehlert

We compare teacher preparation programs in Missouri based on the effectiveness of their graduates in the classroom. The differences in effectiveness between teachers from different preparation programs are very small. In fact, virtually all of the variation in teacher effectiveness comes from within-program differences between teachers. Prior research has overstated differences in teacher performance across preparation programs for several reasons, most notably because some sampling variability in the data has been incorrectly attributed to the preparation programs.

Published: July 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

A Leg Up or a Boot Out?: Student Achievement and Mobility under School Restructuring

Working Paper 78
Author(s): Umut Ozek, Michael Hansen, and Thomas Gonzalez

School closures are increasingly common among U.S. public schools, driven by both budgetary constraints and accountability pressures to turnaround low-performing schools. This paper contributes to the nascent literature on school closures by evaluating student achievement and mobility outcomes in a large-scale restructuring effort in Washington, D.C. in which 32 elementary and middle school campuses were closed or consolidated in the summer of 2008. Using longitudinal data, we investigate how student outcomes change in relation to this initiative with an instrumental variables strategy that counters the endogeneity of student assignment across schools before and after the restructuring occurred. The results show that the academic performance of students directly affected by the school restructuring experienced a temporary decline, but it rebounded by the second school year after restructuring occurred. Additionally, we find no evidence of closure adversely inducing further mobility among affected students.

Published: July 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Portability of Teacher Effectiveness Across School Settings

Working Paper 77
Author(s): Zeyu Xu, Umut Ozek, and Matthew Corritore

Redistributing highly effective teachers from low- to high-need schools is an education policy tool that is at the center of several major current policy initiatives. The underlying assumption is that teacher productivity is portable across different schools settings. Using elementary and secondary school data from North Carolina and Florida, this paper investigates the validity of this assumption. Among teachers who switched between schools with substantially different poverty levels or academic performance levels, we find no change in those teachers' measured effectiveness before and after a school change. This pattern holds regardless of the direction of the school change. We also find that high-performing teachers' value-added dropped and low-performing teachers' value-added gained in the post-move years, primarily as a result of regression to the within-teacher mean and unrelated to school setting changes. Despite such shrinkages, high-performing teachers in the pre-move years still outperformed low-performing teachers after moving to schools with different settings.

Published: June 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Who Benefits from Pension Enhancements?

Working Paper 76
Author(s): Cory Koedel, Shawn Ni and Michael Podgursky

During the late 1990s public pension funds across the United States accrued large actuarial surpluses. The seemingly flush conditions of the pension funds led legislators in most states to substantially improve retirement benefits for public workers, including teachers. In this study we examine the benefit enhancements to the teacher pension system in Missouri. The enhancements resulted in large windfall gains for teachers who were close to retirement when the legislation was enacted. By contrast, novice teachers, and teachers who had not yet entered the labor force, were made worse off. The reason is that front-end contribution rates have been raised for current teachers to offset past liabilities accrued from the enhancements. Total teacher retirement compensation, net of contribution costs, is lower for young teachers today as a result of the enhancement legislation. Given sharp increases in pension costs in other states, this finding may generalize to young teachers in many other plans.

Published: December 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

School Based Accountability and the Distribution of Teacher Quality Across Grades in Elementary Schools

Working Paper 75
Author(s): Sarah C. Fuller and Helen F. Ladd

We use North Carolina data to explore whether the quality of teachers in the lower elementary grades (K-2) falls short of teacher quality in the upper grades (3-5) and to examine the hypothesis that school accountability pressures contribute to such quality shortfalls. Our concern with the early grades arises from recent studies highlighting how children’s experiences in those years have lasting effects on their later outcomes. Using two credentials-based measures of teacher quality, we document within-school quality shortfalls in the lower grades, and show that the shortfalls increased with the introduction of No Child Left Behind. Consistent with that pattern, we find that schools responded to accountability pressures by moving their weaker teachers down to the lower grades and stronger teachers up to the higher grades. These findings support the view that accountability pressure induces schools to pursue actions that work to the disadvantage of children in the lower grades.

Published: February 2013 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Success in Community College: Do Institutions Differ?

Working Paper 74
Author(s): Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen F. Ladd, Clara G. Muschkin, and Jacob L. Vigdor

Community colleges are complex organizations and assessing their performance, though important, is difficult. Compared to four-year colleges and universities, community colleges serve a more diverse population and provide a wider variety of educational programs that include continuing education and technical training for adults, and diplomas, associates degrees, and transfer credits for recent high school graduates. Focusing solely on the latter programs of North Carolina's community colleges, we measure the success of each college along two dimensions: attainment of an applied diploma, or degree; or completion of the coursework required to transfer to a four-year college or university. We address three questions. First, how much variation is there across the institutions in these measures of student success? Second, how do these measures of success differ across institutions after we adjust for the characteristics of the enrolled students? Third, how do our measures compare to the measures of success used by the North Carolina Community College System? We find that most of the system's colleges cannot be statistically distinguished from one another along either dimension.

Published: April 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Is it Just a Bad Class? Assessing the Long-term Stability of Estimated Teacher Performance

Working Paper 73
Author(s): Dan Goldhaber and Michael Hansen

In this paper we report on work estimating the stability of value-added estimates of teacher effects, an important area of investigation given public interest in workforce policies that implicitly assume effectiveness is a stable attribute within teachers. The results strongly reject the hypothesis that teacher performance is completely stable within teachers over long periods of time, but estimates suggest that a component of performance appears to persist within teachers, even over a ten-year panel. We also find that little of the changes in teacher effectiveness estimates within teachers can be explained by observable characteristics.

Published: March 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text | Earlier version available via CEDR 

Teacher Pension Systems, the Composition of the Teaching Workforce, and Teacher Quality

Working Paper 72
Author(s): Cory Koedel and Michael Podgursky

Teacher pension systems target retirements within a narrow range of the career cycle by penalizing individuals who separate too soon or remain employed too long. The penalties result in the retention of some teachers who would otherwise choose to leave, and the premature exit of some teachers who would otherwise choose to stay. We examine how the effects of teachers' pension incentives on workforce composition influence teacher quality. Teachers who are held in by the "pull" incentives in the pension systems are not more effective, on average, than the typical teacher. Teachers who are encouraged to exit by the "push" incentives are more effective on average. We conclude that the net effect of teachers' pension incentives on workforce quality is small, but negative. Given the substantial and growing costs of current systems, and the lack of evidence regarding their efficacy, experimentation by traditional and charter schools with alternative retirement benefit structures would be useful.

Published: November 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Assessing the "Rothstein Test". Does it Really Show Teacher Value-Added Models are Biased?

Working Paper 71
Author(s): Dan Goldhaber and Duncan Chaplin

In a provocative and influential paper, Jesse Rothstein (2010) finds that standard value-added models (VAMs) suggest implausible future teacher effects on past student achievement, a finding that obviously cannot be viewed as causal. This is the basis of a falsification test (the Rothstein falsification test) that appears to indicate bias in VAM estimates of current teacher contributions to student learning. More precisely, the falsification test is designed to identify whether or not students are effectively randomly assigned conditional on the covariates included in the model. Rothstein's finding is significant because there is considerable interest in using VAM teacher effect estimates for high-stakes teacher personnel policies, and the results of the Rothstein test cast considerable doubt on the notion that VAMs can be used fairly for this purpose. However, in this paper, we illustrate—theoretically and through simulations—plausible conditions under which the Rothstein falsification test rejects VAMs even when students are randomly assigned, conditional on the covariates in the model, and even when there is no bias in estimated teacher effects.

Published: January 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

How Teacher Turnover Harms Student Achievement

Working Paper 70
Author(s): Matthew Ronfeldt, Susanna Loeb, and James Wycoff

Researchers and policymakers often assume that teacher turnover harms student achievement, but recent evidence calls into question this assumption. Using a unique identification strategy that employs grade-level turnover and two classes of fixed-effects models, this study estimates the effects of teacher turnover on over 1.1 million New York City 4th grade student observations over 10 years. The results indicate that students in grade-levels with higher turnover score lower in both ELA and math and that this effect is particularly strong in schools with more low-performing and black students. Moreover, the results suggest that there is a disruptive effect of turnover beyond changing the composition in teacher quality.

Published: January 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

The Aftermath of Accelerating Algebra: Evidence from a District Policy Initiative

Working Paper 69
Author(s): Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen F. Ladd, and Jacob L. Vigdor

In 2002/03, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools initiated a broad program of accelerating entry into algebra coursework. The proportion of moderately-performing students taking 8th grade algebra increased from less than half to nearly 90%, then reverted to baseline levels, in the span of just six age cohorts. We use this policy-induced variation to infer the impact of accelerated entry into algebra on student performance in math courses as students progress through high school. Students affected by the acceleration initiative scored significantly lower on end-of-course tests in Algebra I, and were either no more likely or significantly less likely to pass standard follow-up courses, Geometry and Algebra II, on a college-preparatory timetable. We also find that the district assigned teachers with weaker qualifications to Algebra I classes in the first year of the acceleration, but this reduction in teacher quality accounts for only a small portion of the overall effect.

Published: January 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Different Skills: Identifying Differentially Effective Teachers of English Language Learners

Working Paper 68
Author(s): Ben Master, Susanna Loeb, Camille Whitney, and James Wyckoff

This study seeks to identify the characteristics and training experiences of teachers who are differentially effective at promoting academic achievement among English language learners (ELLs). Our analyses indicate that general skills such as those reflected by scores on teacher certification exams and experience teaching non-ELL students are less predictive of achievement for ELL students than for other students. However, specific experience teaching ELL students is more important for predicting effectiveness with future ELL students than non-ELL students as is both in-service and pre-service training focused on ELL-specific instructional strategies.

Published: January 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Pension-Induced Rigidities in the Labor Market for School Leaders

Working Paper 67
Author(s): Cory Koedel, Jason A. Grissom, Shawn Ni, and Michael Podgursky

Educators in public schools in the United States are typically enrolled in defined-benefit pension plans, which penalize across-plan mobility. We use administrative data from Missouri to examine how the mobility penalties affect the labor market for school leaders, and show that pension borders greatly reduce leadership flows across schools. Our most conservative estimates indicate that removing a pension border that divides two groups of schools will increase leadership flows between the groups by roughly 100 percent. We consider the implications of our findings for workforce quality in schools near pension borders in Missouri. Our results are of general interest given that thousands of public schools operate near pension boundaries nationwide.

Published: January 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Estimating the Effect of Leaders on Public Sector Productivity: The Case of School Principals

Working Paper 66
Author(s): Gregory F. Branch, Eric A. Hanushek, and Steven G. Rivkin

Although much has been written about the importance of leadership in the determination of organizational success, there is little quantitative evidence due to the difficulty of separating the impact of leaders from other organizational components – particularly in the public sector. Schools provide an especially rich environment for studying the impact of public sector management, not only because of the hypothesized importance of leadership but also because of the plentiful achievement data that provide information on institutional outcomes. Outcome-based estimates of principal value-added to student achievement reveal significant variation in principal quality that appears to be larger for high-poverty schools. Alternate lower-bound estimates based on direct estimation of the variance yield smaller estimates of the variation in principal productivity but ones that are still important, particularly for high poverty schools. Patterns of teacher exits by principal quality validate the notion that a primary channel for principal influence is the management of the teacher force. Finally, looking at principal transitions by quality reveals little systematic evidence that more effective leaders have a higher probability of exiting high poverty schools.

Published: January 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

The Gateway to the Profession: Assessing Teacher Preparation Programs Based on Student Achievement

Working Paper 65
Author(s): Dan Goldhaber and Stephanie Liddle

With teacher quality repeatedly cited as the most important schooling factor influencing student achievement, there has been increased interest in examining the efficacy of teacher training programs. This paper presents research examining the variation between and impact that individual teacher training institutions in Washington state have on the effectiveness of teachers they train. Using administrative data linking teachers' initial endorsements to student achievement on state reading and math tests, we find the majority of teacher training programs produce teachers who are no more or less effective than teachers who trained out-of-state. However, we do find a number of cases where there are statistically significant differences between estimates of training program effects for teachers who were credentialed at various in-state programs. These findings are robust to a variety of different model specifications.

Published: January 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

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Certification Requirements and Teacher Quality

Working Paper 64
Author(s): Tim R. Sass

Traditionally, states have required individuals complete a program of study in a university-based teacher preparation program in order to be licensed to teach. In recent years, however, various "alternative certification" programs have been developed and the number of teachers obtaining teaching certificates through routes other than completing a traditional teacher preparation program has skyrocketed. In this paper I use a rich longitudinal data base from Florida to compare the characteristics of alternatively certified teachers with their traditionally prepared colleagues. I then analyze the relative effectiveness of teachers who enter the profession through different pathways by estimating "value-added" models of student achievement. In general, alternatively certified teachers have stronger pre-service qualifications than do traditionally prepared teachers, with the least restrictive alternative attracting the most qualified perspective teachers. These differences are less pronounced when controlling for the grade level of teachers, however. On average, alternatively certified science teachers have also had much more coursework in science while in college than traditionally prepared science teachers. The same is not true for math teachers, where the hours of college coursework are approximately equal across pathways. Of the three alternative certification pathways studied, teachers who enter through the path requiring no coursework have substantially greater effects on student achievement than do either traditionally prepared teachers or alternative programs that require some formal coursework in education. These results suggest that the additional education coursework required in traditional teacher preparation programs either does little to boost the human capital of teachers or that whatever gains accrue from traditional teacher education training are offset by greater innate ability of individuals who enter teaching through routes requiring little formal training in education.

Published: December 2011 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Where You Come From or Where You Go? Distinguishing Between School Quality and the Effectiveness of Teacher Preparation Program Graduates

Working Paper 63
Author(s): Kata Mihaly, Daniel McCaffery, Tim R. Sass, and J.R. Lockwood

In this paper we consider the challenges involved in evaluating teacher preparation programs when controlling for school contextual bias. Including school fixed effects in the achievement models used to estimate preparation program effects controls for school environment by relying on differences among student outcomes within the same schools to identify the program effects. However, identification of preparation program effects using school fixed effects requires teachers from different programs to teach in the same school. Even if program effects are identified, the precision of the estimated effects will depend on the degree to which graduates from different programs overlap across schools. In addition, if the connections between preparation programs result from the overlap of atypical graduates or from graduates teaching in atypical school environments, use of school effects could produce bias. Using statewide data from Florida, we show that teachers tend to teach in schools near the programs in which they received their training, but there is still sufficient overlap across schools to identify preparation program effects. We show that the ranking of preparation programs varies significantly depending on whether or not school environment is taken into account via school fixed effects. We find that schools and teachers that are integral to connecting preparation programs are atypical, with disproportionately high percentages of Hispanic teachers and students compared to the state averages. Finally, we find significant variance inflation in the estimated program effects when controlling for school fixed effects, and that the size of the variance inflation factor depends crucially on the length of the window used to compare graduates teaching in the same schools.

Published: January 2012 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Pension-Induced Rigidities in the Labor Market for School Leaders

Working Paper 62
Author(s): Cory Koedel, Jason A. Grissom, Shawn Ni, and Michael Podgursky

Educators in public schools in the United States are typically enrolled in defined-benefit pension plans, which penalize across-plan mobility. We use administrative data from Missouri to examine how the mobility penalties affect the labor market for school leaders. We show that pension borders greatly affect leadership flows across schools – for two groups of schools separated by a pension border, our estimates indicate that removing the border will increase leadership mobility between them by 97 to 163 percent. We consider the implications of the pension-induced rigidities in the leadership labor market for schools near pension borders in Missouri. Our findings are of general interest given that thousands of public schools operate near pension boundaries nationwide.

Published: October 2011 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 1070KB)  See Working Paper 67 for an updated version

Designing and Analyzing Studies that Randomize Schools To Estimate Intervention Effects on Student Academic Outcomes Without Classroom-Level Information

Working Paper 61
Author(s): Pei Zhu, Robin Jacob, Howard Bloom, and Zeyu Xu

This paper provides practical guidance for researchers who are designing and analyzing studies that randomize schools — which comprise three levels of clustering (students in classrooms in schools) — to measure intervention effects on student academic outcomes when information on the middle level (classrooms) is missing. This situation arises frequently in practice because many available data sets identify the schools that students attend but not the classrooms in which they are taught. Do studies conducted under these circumstances yield results that are substantially different from what they would have been if this information had been available? The paper first considers this problem in the context of planning a school randomized study based on preexisting two-level information about how academic outcomes for students vary across schools and across students within schools (but not across classrooms in schools). The paper next considers this issue in the context of estimating intervention effects from school-randomized studies. Findings are based on empirical analyses of four multisite data sets using academic outcomes for students within classrooms within schools. The results indicate that in almost all situations one will obtain nearly identical results whether or not the classroom or middle level is omitted when designing or analyzing studies.

Published: October 2011 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 549KB) | Earlier version available via MDRC |journal article Journal Publication 

Chronically Low-performing Schools and Turnaround: Evidence from Three States

Working Paper 60
Author(s): Michael Hansen and Kilchan Choi

Current federal policy emphasizes a focus on turning around schools that consistently fail to serve their students and communities. At first glance, the identification of chronically low-performing schools and successful turnarounds may seem straightforward. Characterizing school performance, however, requires resolving multiple dilemmas about schools that have not been previously addressed within the literature on turnaround. Furthermore, the literature lacks empirical evidence on the frequency of turnaround in these low-performing schools. This paper addresses these issues involved in identifying low performance and turnaround among schools. Additionally, it examines the long-term performance trajectories of chronically low-performing (CLP) elementary and middle schools in multiple states to identify schools that have shown rapid improvement (designated turn around [TA] schools), schools that have shown moderate improvement (MI), and schools that are persistently not improving (NI). The findings indicate school turnaround is an uncommon event in these low-performing schools, though not rare—approximately 10 to 30 percent of CLP schools, depending on the state and school level, are identified as TA schools based on improvements in performance.

Published: May 2013 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text

Power Play? Teacher Characteristics and Class Assignments

Working Paper 59
Author(s): Demetra Kalogrides, Susanna Loeb, and Tara Béteille

While prior research has documented differences in the distribution of teacher characteristics across schools serving different student populations, few studies have examined how teacher sorting occurs within schools. Comparing teachers who teach in the same grade and school in a given year, the authors find that less experienced, minority, and female teachers are assigned students with lower average prior achievement, more prior behavioral problems, and lower prior attendance rates than their more experienced, white and male colleagues. Though more effective (higher value-added ) teachers and those with advanced degrees are also assigned less difficult classes, controlling for these factors does not eliminate the association between experience, race, gender, and assignments. These patterns have negative implications for teacher retention given the importance of working conditions for teachers' career decisions.

Published: March 2011 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 1.39MB) 

Stepping Stones: Principal Career Paths and School Outcomes

Working Paper 58
Author(s): Tara Béteille, Demetra Kalogrides, and Susanna Loeb

Principals tend to prefer working in schools with higher-achieving students from more advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. Principals often use schools with many poor or low-achieving students as stepping stones to what they view as more desirable assignments. District leadership can also exacerbate principal turnover by implementing policies aimed at improving low-performing schools such as rotating school leaders. Using longitudinal data from one large urban school district we find principal turnover is detrimental to school performance. Frequent turnover results in lower teacher retention and lower student achievement gains, which are particularly detrimental to students in high-poverty and failing schools.

Published: March 2011 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 1.98MB) 

Teacher Quality and Teacher Mobility

Working Paper 57
Author(s): Li Feng and Tim R. Sass

This paper assesses the determinants of teacher job change and the impact of such mobility on the distribution of teacher quality. High and low-quality teachers are more likely to leave than those in the middle of the distribution. In contrast, the relationship between teacher productivity and inter-school mobility is relatively weak. Teachers who rank above their faculty colleagues are more likely to transfer to a new school within a district and exit teaching. As the share of peer teachers with more experience, advanced degrees or professional certification increase, the likelihood of moving within district decreases. There is also evidence of assortative matching among teachers. The most effective teachers who transfer tend to go to schools whose faculties are in the top quartile of teacher quality. Teacher mobility exacerbates differences in teacher quality across schools.

Published: January 2011 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 1257KB) 

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The Economic Value of Higher Teacher Quality

Working Paper 56
Author(s): Eric A. Hanushek

Most analyses of teacher quality end without any assessment of the economic value of altered teacher quality. This paper begins with an overview of what is known about the relationship between teacher quality and student achievement. Alternative valuation methods are based on the impact of increased achievement on individual earnings and on the impact of low teacher effectiveness on economic growth through aggregate achievement. A teacher one standard deviation above the mean effectiveness annually generates marginal gains of over $400,000 in present value of student future earnings with a class size of 20 and proportionately higher with larger class sizes. Replacing the bottom 5-8 percent of teachers with average teachers could move the U.S. near the top of international math and science rankings with a present value of $100 trillion.

Published: December 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 909KB) 

Assessing the Determinants and Implications of Teacher Layoffs

Working Paper 55
Author(s): Dan Goldhaber and Roddy Theobald

Over 2000 teachers in Washington state received reduction-in-force (RIF) notices in the past two years. Linking data on these RIF notices to a unique dataset of student, teacher, school, and district variables the authors determine factors that predict the likelihood of a teacher receiving a RIF notice. A teacher's seniority is the greatest predictor, but (all else equal) master's degree teachers and credentialed teachers in the "high-needs areas" of math, science, and special education were less likely to receive a RIF notice. For a subset of the teachers there is no observed relationship between effectiveness and the likelihood of receiving a RIF notice. Results suggest a different group of teachers would be targeted for layoffs under an effectiveness-based vs. seniority-driven layoff system.

Published: December 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 1644KB) 

Value-Added Models and the Measurement of Teacher Productivity

Working Paper 54
Author(s): Douglas N. Harris, Tim R. Sass, and Anastasia Semykina

Research on teacher productivity, and recently developed accountability systems for teachers, rely on value-added models to estimate the impact of teachers on student performance. The authors test many of the central assumptions required to derive value-added models from an underlying structural cumulative achievement model and reject nearly all of them. Moreover, they find that teacher value added and other key parameter estimates are highly sensitive to model specification. While estimates from commonly employed value-added models cannot be interpreted as causal teacher effects, employing richer models that impose fewer restrictions may reduce the bias in estimates of teacher productivity.

Published: December 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 1169KB) 

Public School Choice and Student Achievement in the District of Columbia

Working Paper 53
Author(s): Austin Nichols and Umut Özek

This study examines the multi-faceted public school choice environment in the District of Columbia and the effects of alternative public schools on the achievement levels of students who exercise this type of school choice. The results indicate that students who attend out-of-boundary public schools and charter schools significantly outperform similar students who attend in-boundary public schools in both reading and math tests. We rely on instrumental variables framework to disentangle the underlying reasons behind this achievement gap and find that the observed differences are likely due to the positive effects of alternative public schools.

Published: December 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 875KB) 

Value Added of Teachers in High-Poverty Schools and Lower-Poverty Schools

Working Paper 52
Author(s): Tim R. Sass, Jane Hannaway, Zeyu Xu, David N. Figlio, and Li Feng

Using data from North Carolina and Florida, this paper examines whether teachers in high-poverty schools are as effective as teachers in schools with more advantaged students. Bottom teachers in high-poverty schools are less effective than bottom teachers in lower-poverty schools. The best teachers, by comparison, are equally effective across school poverty settings. The gap in teacher quality appears to arise from the lower payoff to teacher qualifications in high-poverty schools. In particular, the experience-productivity relationship is weaker in high-poverty schools and is not related to teacher mobility patterns. Recruiting teachers with good credentials into high-poverty schools may be insufficient to narrow the teacher quality gap. Policies that promote the long-term productivity of teachers in challenging high-poverty schools appear key

Published: November 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 629KB) | Journal Publication

Scrambling the Nest Egg: How Well Do Teachers Understand their Pensions and What Do They Think about Alternative Pension Structures?

Working Paper 51
Author(s): Michael DeArmond and Dan Goldhaber

This paper addresses two questions: How well do teachers understand their current pension plans? And, what do they think about alternative plan structures? The data come from administrative records and a 2006 survey of teachers in Washington State. The results suggest Washington's teachers are fairly knowledgeable about their pensions, though new entrants and mid-career teachers appear to be less knowledgeable than veteran teachers. As for teachers' preferences for plan structure, the survey suggests that when it comes to investing additional retirement savings, a plurality of teachers favor defined contribution plans which offer more portability and choice, but more risk than traditional defined benefit plans. Perhaps unsurprisingly, all else equal, teachers newer to the profession are more likely than veteran teachers to favor a defined contribution structure.

Published: June 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 629KB) | Journal Publication

Teacher Attitudes about Compensation Reform: Implications for Reform Implementation

Working Paper 50
Author(s): Dan Goldhaber, Michael DeArmond, and Scott DeBurgomaster

Reform advocates and policymakers concerned about the quality and distribution of teachers support proposals of alternative compensation for teachers in hard-to-hire subject areas, hard-to-staff schools, and with special knowledge and skills. The successful implementation of such proposals depends in large part on teacher attitudes. The current body of research on teacher attitudes toward compensation reform paints an inconsistent picture of teachers' views, largely ignoring the influence of individual and workplace characteristics on teacher attitudes. Results from a 2006 survey of teachers in Washington State linked to school and district data confirm earlier findings that teacher opinion about pay reform is not uniform, and further illustrates teacher preferences for different pay structures vary substantially by individual and workplace characteristics. Nearly three quarters of teachers favored higher pay for hard-to-staff schools. In contrast, only 17% favored merit pay. Teachers with a high degree of confidence in their principal were more likely to support merit pay than those with greater sense of trust and respect for their fellow teachers than for their principal. Policymakers interested in implementing new pay systems should carefully assess teacher opinion in determining where (and how) they invest in them.

Published: June 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 768KB) | Journal Publication

What Makes Special Education Teachers Special? Teacher Training and Achievement of Students with Disabilities

Working Paper 49
Author(s): Li Feng and Tim R. Sass

This paper contributes importantly to the growing literature on the training of special education teachers and how it translates into classroom practice and student achievement. The authors examine the impact of pre-service preparation and in-service formal and informal training on the ability of teachers to promote academic achievement among students with disabilities. Using student-level longitudinal data from Florida over a five-year span the authors estimate "value-added" models of student achievement. There is little support for the efficacy of in-service professional development courses focusing on special education. However, teachers with advanced degrees are more effective in boosting the math achievement of students with disabilities than are those with only a baccalaureate degree. Also pre-service preparation in special education has statistically significant and quantitatively substantial effects on the ability of teachers of special education courses to promote gains in achievement for students with disabilities, especially in reading. Certification in special education, an undergraduate major in special education, and the amount of special education coursework in college are all positively correlated with the performance of teachers in special education reading courses.

Published: June 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 527KB)

Scaling the Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement

Working Paper 48
Author(s): Jacob L. Vigdor and Helen F. Ladd

Does differential access to computer technology at home compound the educational disparities between the rich and the poor? Would a program of government provision of computers to early secondary school students reduce these disparities? This study covers years 2000 to 2005, a period when home computers and high-speed Internet access expanded dramatically. Using administrative data on North Carolina public school students to corroborate earlier surveys that document broad racial and socioeconomic gaps in home computer access and use, the authors compared the children's reading and math scores before and after they acquired a home computer, and compared these scores to those of peers who had a home computer by fifth grade and to test scores of students who never acquired a home computer. The introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores. The authors also conclude that home computers are put to more productive use in households where parental monitoring is more effective. Further evidence suggests that providing universal access to home computers and high-speed internet access would broaden, rather than narrow, math and reading achievement gaps.

Published: June 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 683KB)

School Accountability and Teacher Mobility

Working Paper 47
Author(s): Li Feng, David N. Figlio, and Tim R. Sass

Struggling schools that come under increased accountability pressure face a number of challenges, including changing instructional policies and practices to facilitate student improvement. But what effect does school accountability have on teachers' mobility decisions? This study is the first to exploit policy variation within the same state to examine the effects of school accountability on teacher job changes. Using student-level data from Florida State the authors measure the degree to which schools and teachers were "surprised" by the change in Florida's school grading system (A+ Plan for Education) in the summer of 2002— what they refer to as an "accountability shock." They observed the mobility decisions of teachers in the years before and after the school grading change and found over half of all schools in the state experienced an accountability "shock" due to this grading change. Teachers were more likely to leave schools facing increased accountability pressure; even more likely to leave schools shocked downward to a grade of "F"; and less likely to leave schools facing decreased accountability pressure. Schools facing increased accountability pressure also saw a rise in the average quality of the teachers who stayed. If these schools were able to retain more of their high- quality teachers, perhaps through increased incentives to remain in the school, the performance gains associated with school accountability pressure could be greater than those already observed.

Published: June 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 669KB) 

Competitive Effects of Means-Tested School Vouchers

Working Paper 46
Author(s): David N. Figlio and Cassandra M.D. Hart

Voucher options like tuition tax credit-funded scholarship programs have become increasingly popular in recent years. This study examines the effects of private school competition on public school students' test scores in the wake of Florida's Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC) program which offered scholarships to eligible low-income students to attend private schools. The authors examine whether students in schools exposed to a more competitive private school landscape saw greater improvements in their students' test scores after the introduction of the program, than did students in schools that faced less competition. Students in public schools faced with increased private school competition showed greater gains in test scores than students in other public schools with the introduction of the program. These findings are not an artifact of pre-policy trends; the degree of competition from nearby private schools matters only after the announcement of the new program, which makes nearby private competitors more affordable for eligible students. The gains appear to be much more pronounced in the schools most at risk of losing students and in the schools that are on the margin of Title I funding.

Published: June 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 709KB) 

Measure for Measure: The Relationship between Measures of Instructional Practice in Middle School English Language Arts and Teachers' Value-Added Scores

Working Paper 45
Author(s): Pamela L. Grossman, Susanna Loeb, Julia Cohen, Karen Hammerness, James H. Wyckoff, Donald J. Boyd, and Hamilton Lankford

Many studies have estimated the relationship between teachers' characteristics (i.e., experience and academic performance) and their value-added to student achievement. Few have explored whether instructional practices predict student test score gains. In this study, authors ask what classroom practices, if any, differentiate teachers with high impact on student achievement in middle school English Language Arts from those with lower impact. The study further explores the extent to which value-added measures signal differences in instructional quality. Even with the small sample used in the analysis, the authors find evidence that high value-added teachers have a different profile of instructional practices than do low value-added teachers. Teachers in the top quartile as measured by value-added scores score higher than second-quartile teachers on all 16 elements of instruction that were measured. The differences are statistically significant for a subset of practices including explicit strategy instruction.

Published: May 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 630KB)

Teacher Mobility, School Segregation, and Pay-Based Policies to Level the Playing Field

Working Paper 44
Author(s): Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen F. Ladd, and Jacob L. Vigdor

Research has consistently shown that teacher quality is distributed very unevenly among schools to the clear disadvantage of minority students and those from low-income families. Using information on teaching spells in North Carolina, the authors examine the potential for using salary differentials to overcome this pattern. They conclude that salary differentials are a far less effective tool for retaining teachers with strong pre-service qualifications than for retaining other teachers in schools with high proportions of minority students. Consequently, large salary differences would be needed to level the playing field when schools are segregated. This conclusion reflects the finding that teachers with stronger qualifications are both more responsive to the racial and socioeconomic mix of a school's students and less responsive to salary than are their less well qualified counterparts when making decisions about remaining in their current school, moving to another school or district, or leaving the teaching profession.

Published: May 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 669KB) | Journal Publication

New Estimates of Design Parameters for Clustered Randomization Studies: Findings from North Carolina and Florida

Working Paper 43
Author(s): Zeyu Xu and Austin Nichols

The gold standard in making causal inference on program effects is a randomized trial. Most randomization designs in education randomize classrooms or schools rather than individual students. Such "clustered randomization" designs have one principal drawback: They tend to have limited statistical power or precision. This study aims to provide empirical information needed to design adequately powered studies that randomize schools using data from Florida and North Carolina. The authors assess how different covariates contribute to improving the statistical power of a randomization design and examine differences between math and reading tests; differences between test types (curriculum-referenced tests versus norm-referenced tests); and differences between elementary school and secondary school, to see if the test subject, test type, or grade level makes a large difference in the crucial design parameters. Finally they assess bias in 2-level models that ignore the clustering of students in classrooms.

Published: May 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 848KB) 

Constrained Job Matching:Does Teacher Job Search Harm Disadvantaged Urban Schools?

Working Paper 42
Author(s): Eric A. Hanushek and Steven G. Rivkin

Search theory suggests early career job changes lead to better matches that benefit both workers and firms, but this may not hold true in teacher labor markets characterized by salary rigidities, barriers to entry, and substantial differences in working conditions. Education policy makers are particularly concerned that teacher turnover may have adverse effects on the quality of instruction in schools serving predominantly disadvantaged children. Although these schools experience higher turnover, on average, than other schools, the impact on the quality of instruction depends on whether more productive teachers are more likely to depart. In Texas, the availability of matched panel data of students and teachers enables the isolation of teachers' contributions to achievement. Teachers who remain in their school tend to outperform those who leave, particularly those who exit Texas public schools entirely. This gap is larger for schools serving mainly low income students— evidence that high turnover is not nearly as damaging as many suggest.

Published: May 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 701KB) 

Value Added of Teachers in High-Poverty Schools and Lower-Poverty Schools: Implications for Research, Policy, and Management

Working Paper 41- Forthcoming
Author(s): Jane Hannaway, Zeyu Xu, Tim R. Sass, David N. Figlio, and Li Feng

Using student-level microdata from 2000-2001 to 2004-2005 from Florida and North Carolina, this paper compares the effectiveness of teachers in high-poverty elementary schools (>70% FRL students) with that of teachers in lower-poverty elementary schools (<70% FRL students and <30% FRL students). Teachers in high-poverty schools are on average less effective than those in lower-poverty schools, as measured by their value-added to math and reading achievement. The gap in the effectiveness of teachers between high- and lower-poverty schools is most pronounced at the bottom of the teacher performance distribution. The best teachers, by comparison, are equally effective across school poverty settings. This gap in teacher effectiveness cannot simply be explained by the higher concentration of inexperienced teachers in high-poverty schools. In fact, it is largely driven by the lower "pay off" to experience in high-poverty schools. That is, the productivity gain associated with increase in experience is systematically lower in high-poverty schools than in other schools. The findings suggest policies that rely on redistributing teacher experience are insufficient to narrow the achievement gap between high- and- low-poverty schools. The findings suggest that policymakers should look beyond the number of years of experience in crafting policies aimed that the redistribution of effective teachers in high-poverty schools, and instead focus on policies aimed at recruiting qualified experienced teachers. Additionally, while the focus on teacher retention is right, policymakers must also focus on the productivity growth of teachers.

2009 | Back to Top

How Career Concerns Influence Public Workers' Effort: Evidence from the Teacher Labor Market

Working Paper 40
Author(s): Michael Hansen

This study presents a generalization to the standard career concerns model and applies it to the public teacher labor market. The model predicts optimal teacher effort levels decline with both tenure at a school and experience, all things being equal. Using administrative data from North Carolina spanning 14 school years through 2008, the author finds significant changes in teacher sick leave consistent with the generalized career concerns model. By exploiting exogenous variation in career concerns in the form of principal turnover, the author shows the observed behaviors cannot be due to the endogeneity of teacher mobility decisions alone. Also examined are the effects of career concerns incentives breaking down. There is evidence suggestive of teacher shirking, and evidence on an unobservable measure of effort taken from the Schools and Staffing Survey that corroborates findings from observable teacher absence behavior. In sum,teachers exert considerable discretion over their own effort levels in response to these incentives.This has important policy implications.

Published: December 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 591KB) 

Distribution of Benefits in Teacher Retirement Systems and Their Implications for Mobility

Working Paper 39
Author(s): Robert M. Costrell and Michael J. Podgursky

While it is generally understood that defined benefit pension systems concentrate benefits on career teachers and impose costs on mobile teachers, there has been very little analysis of the magnitude of these effects. The authors develop a measure of implicit redistribution of pension wealth among teachers at varying ages of separation. Compared to a neutral system, often about half of an entering cohort's net pension wealth is redistributed to teachers who separate in their fifties from those who separate earlier. There is some variation across six state systems. This implies large costs for interstate mobility. Estimates show teachers who split a thirty-year career between two pension plans often lose over half their net pension wealth compared to teachers who complete a career in a single system. Plan options that permit purchases of service years mitigate few or none of these losses. It is difficult to explain these patterns of costs and benefits on efficiency grounds. More likely explanations include the relative influence of senior versus junior educators in interest group politics and a coordination problem between states.

Published: December 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 569KB) | journal article Journal Publication | podcast Podcast
['Peaks, Cliffs, and Valleys'. Education Finance and Policy 4(2):175-211(2009)]

School Principals and School Performance

Working Paper 38
Author(s): Damon Clark, Paco Martorell, and Jonah E. Rockoff

This paper uses data from New York City to estimate how the characteristics of school principals relate to school performance, as measured by students' standardized exam scores and other outcomes. There is little evidence of any relationship between school performance and principal education and pre-principal work experience, but some evidence that experience as an assistant principal at the principal's current school is associated with higher performance among inexperienced principals. There is a positive relationship between principal experience and school performance, particularly for math test scores and student absences. The experience profile is especially steep over the first few years of principal experience. Finally, there is mixed evidence on the relationship between formal principal training and professional development programs and school performance, with the caveat that the selection and assignment of New York City principals participating in these programs make it hard to isolate their effects. The positive returns to principal experience suggest that policies which cause principals to leave their posts early (e.g., via early retirement or a move into district administration) will be costly, and the tendency for less-advantaged schools to be run by less experienced principals could exacerbate educational inequality.

Published: December 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 330KB)

Effective Schools: Managing the Recruitment, Development, and Retention of High‐Quality Teachers

Working Paper 37
Author(s): Tara Beteille, Demetra Kalogrides, and Susanna Loeb

Teachers are systematically sorted across schools. Often, schools serving the lowest-achieving students staffed by the least-skilled teachers. While teachers' school preferences account for some of the sorting, school practices are also likely to be a key factor. Using value-added methods, the authors examine the relationship between a school's effectiveness during a given principal's tenure and the retention, recruitment and development of its teachers. Three key findings emerge about principal effectiveness. More effective principals: (1) are able to retain higher-quality teachers and remove less-effective teachers; (2) are able to attract and hire higher-quality teachers to fill vacancies; (3) have teachers who improve at a greater pace than those in schools with less effective leadership (there is some evidence for this, albeit weak). These findings drive home the importance of personnel practices for effective school leadership.

Published: December 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 732KB) | Journal Publication

Principal Preferences and the Unequal Distribution of Principals Across Schools

Working Paper 36
Author(s): Eileen Horng, Demetra Kalogrides, and Susanna Loeb

In this study authors use longitudinal data from one large school district – Miami-Dade County Public Schools, to investigate the distribution of principals across schools. They find schools serving many low-income, non-white, and low-achieving students have principals with less experience, less education, and who attended less selective colleges. This distribution of principals is partially driven by the initial match of first-time principals to schools at the beginning of their careers and is exacerbated by systematic attrition and transfer away from these schools. Supplementing these data with surveys of principals, the authors find principals' stated preferences for school characteristics mirror observed distribution and transfer patterns. Principals prefer to work in easier to serve schools with favorable working conditions which also tend to be schools with fewer poor, minority and/or low-achieving students.

Published: December 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 354KB) | journal article Journal Publication
[Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 32(2):205-229 (2010)]

Triangulating Principal Effectiveness: How Perspectives of Parents, Teachers, and Assistant Principals Identify the Central Importance of Managerial Skills

Working Paper 35
Author(s): Jason Grissom and Susanna Loeb

While the importance of effective principals is undisputed, few studies have addressed what specific skills principals need to promote school success. This study draws on unique data combining survey responses from principals, assistant principals, teachers and parents with rich administrative data to identify which principal skills matter most for school outcomes. Factor analysis of a 42-item task inventory distinguishes five skill categories, yet only one of them, the principals' organization management skills, consistently predicts student achievement growth and other success measures. Analysis of evaluations of principals by assistant principals confirms this central result. The analysis argues for a broad view of instructional leadership that includes general organizational management skills as a key complement to the work of supporting curriculum and instruction.

Published: December 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 751KB) | Journal Publication

Principal Time-Use and School Effectiveness

Working Paper 34
Author(s): Eileen Lai Horng, Daniel Klasik, and Susanna Loeb

School principals have complex jobs. To better understand the work lives of principals, this study uses observational time-use data for all high school principals in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. This paper examines the relationship between the time principals spent on different types of activities and school outcomes including student achievement, teacher and parent assessments of the school, and teacher satisfaction. Time spent on Organization Management activities is associated with positive school outcomes, such as student test score gains and positive teacher and parent assessments of the instructional climate, whereas Day-to-Day Instruction activities are marginally or not at all related to improvements in student performance and often have a negative relationship with teacher and parent assessments. This paper suggests that a single-minded focus on principals as instructional leaders operationalized through direct contact with teachers may be detrimental if it forsakes the important role of principals as organizational leaders.

Published: December 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 610KB) | journal article Journal Publication
[American Journal of Education 116 (4, August 2010)]

Teachers' Perceptions of their Working Conditions: How Predictive of Policy-Relevant Outcomes?

Working Paper 33
Author(s): Helen F. Ladd

This study uses data from North Carolina to examine the extent to which survey based perceptions of working conditions are predictive of policy-relevant outcomes, independent of other school characteristics such as the demographic mix of the school's students. Working conditions emerge as highly predictive of teachers' stated intentions to remain in or leave their schools, with leadership emerging as the most salient dimension. Teachers' perceptions of their working conditions are also predictive of one-year actual departure rates and student achievement, but the predictive power isfar lower. These weaker findings for actual outcome measures help to highlight both the strengths and weaknesses of using teacher survey data for understanding outcomes of policy interest.

Published: December 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 390KB)

Estimating Principal Effectiveness

Working Paper 32
Author(s): Gregory F. Branch, Eric A. Hanushek, and Steven G. Rivkin

Much has been written about the importance of school leadership, but there is surprisingly little systematic evidence on this topic. This paper presents preliminary estimates of key elements of the market for school principals, employing rich panel data on principals from Texas State. The consideration of teacher movements across schools suggests that principals follow patterns quite similar to those of teachers – preferring schools that have less demands as indicated by higher income students, higher achieving students, and fewer minority students. Looking at the impact of principals on student achievement, there are some small but significant effects of the tenure of a principal in a school. Moreover, the variation in principal effectiveness tends to be largest in high poverty schools, consistent with hypothesis that principal ability is most important in schools serving the most disadvantaged students. Finally, principals who stay in a school tend to be more effective than those who move to other schools.

Published: December 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 290KB)

Assessing the Potential of Using Value-Added Estimates of Teacher Job Performance for Making High-Stakes Personnel Decisions

Working Paper 31
Author(s): Dan Goldhaber and Michael Hansen

Reforming teacher tenure is an idea that appears to be gaining traction with the underlying assumption being that one can infer to a reasonable degree how well a teacher will perform over her career based on estimates of her early-career effectiveness. Here we explore the potential for using value-added models to estimate performance and inform tenure decisions. We find little evidence of convergence or divergence in teacher effectiveness across teachers as they advance in their careers, but strong evidence that prior year estimates of job performance for individual teachers predict student achievement even when there is a multi-year lag between the two.

Last revised: February 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 576KB)

What Makes for a Good Teacher and Who Can Tell?

Working Paper 30
Author(s): Douglas N. Harris and Tim R. Sass

Mounting pressure in the policy arena to improve teacher productivity either by improving signals that predict teacher performance or through creating incentive contracts based on performance—has spurred two related questions: Are there important determinants of teacher productivity that are not captured by teacher credentials but that can be measured by subjective assessments? And would evaluating teachers based on a combination of subjective assessments and student outcomes more accurately gauge teacher performance than student test scores alone? Using data from a midsize Florida school district, this paper explores both questions by calculating teachers' "value added" and comparing those outcomes with subjective ratings of teachers by school principals. Teacher value-added and principals' subjective ratings are positively correlated and principals' evaluations are better predictors of a teacher's value added than traditional approaches to teacher compensation focused on experience and formal education. In settings where schools are judged on student test scores, teachers' ability to raise those scores is important to principals, as reflected in their subjective teacher ratings. Also, teachers' subject knowledge, teaching skill, and intelligence are most closely associated with both the overall subjective teacher ratings and the teacher value added. Finally, while past teacher value added predicts future teacher value added the principals' subjective ratings can provide additional information and substantially increase predictive power.

Published: September 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 410KB)

Teacher Career Paths, Teacher Quality, and Persistence in the Classroom: Are Schools Keeping their Best?

Working Paper 29
Author(s): Dan Goldhaber, Betheny Gross, and Daniel Player

Most studies that have fueled alarm over the attrition and mobility rates of teachers have relied on proxy indicators of teacher quality, even though these proxies correlate only weakly with student performance. This paper examines the attrition and mobility of early-career teachers of varying quality using value-added measures of teacher performance. Unlike previous studies, this paper focuses on the variation in these effects across the effectiveness distribution. On average, more effective teachers tend to stay in their initial schools and in teaching. But the lowest performing teachers, who are generally the most likely to transfer between schools, appear to "churn" within the system, and teacher mobility appears significantly affected by student demographics and achievement levels.

Published: August 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 738KB) | Journal Publication

Before or After the Bell?: School Context and Neighborhood Effects on Student Achievement

Working Paper 28
Author(s): Paul A. Jargowsky and Mohamed El Komi

This paper explores the relative effects of school and neighborhood characteristics on student achievement in Texas. Previous empirical studies have estimated one of these effects in the absence of controls for the other, leading to potentially misleading results. School variables are more robust and explain a greater degree of the variance in test scores than neighborhood characteristics. Neighborhood level variables, as a group, are statistically significant even in the presence of school variables. The particular pattern of effects varies by the manner in which the school context was controlled, by poverty status, move status, and location in the conditional achievement distribution. But neighborhood always mattered. Even if neighborhood conditions are less robust than school context effects, concern about neighborhood conditions is still justified. Reducing the concentration of poverty and economic segregation may be the easiest way to decrease the "savage inequalities" that exist between schools.

Published: July 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 282KB)

The Qualifications and Classroom Performance of Teachers Moving to Charter Schools

Working Paper 27
Author(s): Celeste K. Carruthers

Do charter schools draw good teachers from traditional, mainstream public schools? Using an eleven-year panel of North Carolina public school teachers, the author finds nuanced patterns of teacher quality flowing into charter schools. High rates of inexperienced and unlicensed teachers moved to charter schools, but among regularly licensed teachers changing schools, charter movers had higher licensure test scores than other moving teachers, and they were more likely to be highly experienced. The author estimates measures of value added for a subset of elementary teachers and show that charter movers were less effective than other mobile teachers and colleagues within their sending schools, by 3 to 4 percent of a student-level standard deviation in achievement.

Last Revised: June 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 470KB)

The Effects of Open Enrollment on School Choice and Student Outcomes

Working Paper 26
Author(s): Umut Özek

This paper analyzes households' response to the introduction of intra-district school choice and examines the impact of this choice on student test scores in Pinellas County Schools, one of the largest school districts in the United States. Households react strongly to the incentives created by such programs, leading to significant changes in the frequency of exercising alternative public schooling options, as well as changes in the composition of the "opt out" students. However, using proximity to public alternatives as an instrument for opting out of the assigned public school, the author finds no significant benefit of opting out on student achievement and that those who opt out of their default public schools often perform significantly worse on standardized tests than similar students who stay behind. The results further suggest that the short-run detrimental effects of opting out are stronger for students who opt out closer to the terminal grade of the school level. Yet the detrimental effects are weaker for disadvantaged students, who typically constitute the proposed target of school choice reforms.

Published: May 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 898KB) 

The Influence of School Administrators on Teacher Retention Decisions

Working Paper 25
Author(s): Donald J. Boyd, Pamela L. Grossman, Marsha Ing, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James H. Wyckoff

When given the opportunity, many teachers choose to leave schools serving poor, low-performing, and minority students. While substantial research has documented this phenomenon, far less effort has gone into understanding what features of the working conditions in these schools drive this relatively high turnover rate. This paper explores the relationship between school contextual factors and teacher retention decisions in New York City. The methodological approach separates the effects of teacher characteristics from school characteristics by modeling the relationship between the assessments of school contextual factors by one set of teachers and the turnover decisions by other teachers within the same school. Teachers' perceptions of the school administration have by far the greatest influence on teacher-retention decisions. This effect of administration is consistent for first-year teachers and the full sample of teachers and is confirmed by a survey of teachers who have recently left teaching in New York City.

Published: May 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 552 KB) | Journal Publication

Are Teacher Absences Worth Worrying about in the U.S.?

Working Paper 24
Author(s): Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen F. Ladd, and Jacob L.Vigdor

Using detailed data from North Carolina, this paper examines the frequency, incidence, and consequences of teacher absences in public schools, as well as the impact of a policy designed to reduce absences. The incidence of teacher absences is regressive: when schools are ranked by the fraction of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch, schools in the poorest quartile averaged almost one extra sick day per teacher than schools in the highest income quartile, and schools with persistently high rates of teacher absence were much more likely to serve low-income than high-income students. In regression models incorporating teacher fixed effects, absences are associated with lower student achievement in elementary grades. There is evidence that the demand for discretionary absences is price-elastic. Our estimates suggest that a policy intervention that simultaneously raised teacher base salaries and broadened financial penalties for absences could both raise teachers' expected income and lower districts' expected costs.

Published: April 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 379KB) | journal article Journal Publication
[Education Finance and Policy 4(2):115-149 (2009)]

Who Leaves? Teacher Attrition and Student Achievement

Working Paper 23
Author(s): Donald J. Boyd, Pamela L. Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James H. Wyckoff

Teacher attrition has attracted considerable attention as federal, state and local policies- intended to improve student outcomes, increasingly focus on recruiting and retaining more qualified and effective teachers. But policy makers are often frustrated by the seemingly high rates of attrition among teachers earlier on in their careers. This paper analyzes attrition patterns among teachers in New York City elementary and middle schools and explores whether teachers who transfer among schools, or leave teaching entirely, are more or less effective than those who remain. Findings show first-year teachers who are less effective in improving student math scores have higher attrition rates than do more effective teachers. This raises important questions about current retention and transfer policies.

Published: March 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 335KB)

Student Transience in North Carolina:The Effect of School Mobility on Student Outcomes Using Longitudinal Data

Working Paper 22
Author(s): Zeyu Xu, Jane Hannaway, and Stephanie D'Souza

This paper describes the school mobility rates for elementary and middle school students in North Carolina and attempts to estimate the effect of school mobility on the performance of different groups of students using student fixed effects models. School mobility is defined as changing schools at times that are non-promotional (e.g., moving from middle to high school). We used detailed administrative data on North Carolina students and schools from 1996 to 2005 and followed four cohorts of 3rd graders for six years each. School mobility rates were highest for minority and disadvantaged students. School mobility rates for Hispanic students declined across successive cohorts, but increased for Black students. Findings on effects were most pronounced in math. School mobility hurt the math performance of Black and Hispanic students, but not the math performance of white students. School mobility improved the reading performance of white and more advantaged students, but had no effect on the reading performance of minority students. "Strategic" school moves (cross-district) benefitted or had no effect on student performance, but "reactive" moves (within district) hurt all groups of students. White and Hispanic students were more likely to move to a higher quality school while Blacks were more likely to move to a lower quality school. The negative effects of school mobility increased with the number of school moves.

Published: March 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 580KB)

Status vs. Growth: The Distributional Effects of School Accountability Policies

Working Paper 21
Author(s): Helen F. Ladd and Douglas L. Lauen

No Child Left Behind judges the effectiveness of schools based on their students' achievement status. However, many policy analysts argue that schools should be measured, instead, by their students' achievement growth. Using a ten-year student-level panel dataset from North Carolina, we examine how school-specific pressure related to two school accountability approaches (status and growth) affects student achievement at different points in the prior-year achievement distribution. Achievement gains for students below the proficiency cut point emerge in response to both types of accountability systems. We find little or no evidence that schools in North Carolina ignore students far below proficiency under either approach. Importantly, we find that the status, but not the growth, approach reduces the reading achievement of higher performing students, with the losses in the aggregate exceeding the gains at the bottom. The distributional effects of accountability pressure depend on the type of pressure for which schools are held accountable and the tested subject.

Published: March 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 523KB) | journal article Journal Publication
[Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 29(3):426-450 (2010)]

2008 | Back to Top

Teacher Preparation and Student Achievement

Working Paper 20
Author(s): Donald J. Boyd, Pamela L. Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James H. Wyckoff

There are fierce debates over the best way to prepare teachers. Some argue that easing entry into teaching is necessary to attract strong candidates, while others argue that investing in high quality teacher preparation is the most promising approach. Most agree, however, that we lack a strong research basis for understanding how to prepare teachers. This paper is one of the first to estimate the effects of features of teachers' preparation on teachers' value-added to student test score performance in Math and English Language Arts. Our results indicate variation across preparation programs in the average effectiveness of the teachers they are supplying to New York City schools. In particular, preparation directly linked to practice appears to benefit teachers in their first year.

Published: August 2008 | Downloads: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 664KB) | journal article Journal Publication 
[Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 31(4):416-440 (2009)]

Measuring Effect Sizes: The Effect of Measurement Error

Working Paper 19
Author(s): Donald J. Boyd, Pamela L. Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James H. Wyckoff

Value-added models in education research allow researchers to explore how a wide variety of policies and measured school inputs affect the academic performance of students. The impacts of such interventions are typically quantified in terms of effect sizes. We estimate the overall extent of test measurement error and how this varies across students using the covariance structure of student test scores across grades in New York City from 1999 to 2007. Results reinforce the importance of accounting for measurement error, as it meaningfully increases effect size estimates associated with teacher attributes. There are important differences in teacher effectiveness that are systematically related to observed teacher attributes. Such effects are important in the formulation and implementation of personnel policies.

Published: June 2008 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 365KB)

Classroom Peer Effects and Student Achievement

Working Paper 18
Author(s): Mary A. Burke and Tim R. Sass

Using a unique longitudinal dataset covering all Florida public school students in grades 3–10 over a five-year period, we analyze the impact of classroom peers on individual student performance. Unlike many previous data sets used to study peer effects in education, our data allow us to identify each member of a given student's classroom peer group in elementary, middle and high school as well as the classroom teacher responsible for instruction. As a result, we can control for individual student fixed effects simultaneously with individual teacher fixed effects, thereby alleviating biases due to endogenous assignment of both peers and teachers, including some dynamic aspects of such assignments. We find some sizable, significant peer effects within nonlinear models, but not with linear specifications. We find peer effects depend on a student's own ability and on the ability of the peers under consideration. Peer effects tend to be smaller when teacher fixed effects are included, a result that suggests co-movement of peer and teacher quality within a student over time. We also find that peer effects tend to be stronger at the classroom level than the grade level.

Published: June 2008 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 593KB)

Making a Difference?: The Effects of Teach for America in High School

Working Paper 17
Author(s): Zeyu Xu, Jane Hannaway, and Colin Taylor

Teach for America (TFA) selects and places graduates from the most competitive colleges as teachers in the lowest-performing schools in the country. This paper is the first study that examines TFA effects in high school. We use rich longitudinal data from North Carolina and estimate TFA effects through cross-subject student and school fixed-effects models. We find that TFA teachers tend to have a positive effect on high school student test scores relative to non-TFA teachers, including those who are certified in-field. Such effects exceed the impact of additional years of experience and are particularly strong in math and science.

Last Revised: March 2009 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 392KB) | journal article Journal Publication
[Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 30(3):447-469 (2011)]

School Segregation under Color-Blind Jurisprudence: The Case of North Carolina

Working Paper 16
Author(s): Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen F. Ladd, and Jacob L. Vigdor

This paper uses administrative data for the public K-12 schools of North Carolina to measure racial segregation in the public schools of North Carolina. Using data for the 2005/06 school year, the authors update previous calculations that measure segregation in terms of unevenness in racial enrollment patterns both between schools and within schools. They find that classroom segregation generally increased between 2000/01 and 2005/06, continuing, albeit at a slightly slower rate, the trend observed over the preceding six years. Segregation increased sharply in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, which introduced a new choice plan in 2002. Over the same period, racial and economic disparities in teacher quality widened in that district.

Published: February 2008 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 301KB) 

Teacher Salary Bonuses in North Carolina

Working Paper 15
Author(s): Jacob L. Vigdor

Since the 1996/97 school year, North Carolina has awarded bonuses of up to $1,500 to teachers in schools that exhibit test score gains above certain thresholds. This article reviews the details of the bonus program, describes patterns of differences between schools that qualify for bonuses of differing amounts, and presents basic data to address the question of whether the bonus program has improved student achievement, or has led to a narrowing of racial or socioeconomic achievement gaps. There is some evidence to suggest an improvement in overall test scores, particularly in math, but less evidence to suggest that achievement gaps have narrowed.

Published: February 2008 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 420KB)

Public School Choice and Integration: Evidence from Durham, North Carolina

Working Paper 14
Author(s): Robert Bifulco, Helen F. Ladd, and Stephen Ross

This paper uses evidence from Durham, North Carolina to examine the impact of school choice on racial and class-based segregation across schools. The findings suggest that school choice increases segregation. Furthermore, the effects of choice on segregation by class are larger than the effects on segregation by race. These results are consistent with the theoretical argument—developed in sociology and economics literature—that the segregating choices of students from advantaged backgrounds are likely to outweigh any integrating choices by disadvantaged students.

Published: February 2008 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 275KB) | journal article Journal Publication
[Social Science Research 38(1):71-85 (2009)]

2007 | Back to Top

Feeling the Florida Heat?: How Low-Performing Schools Respond to Voucher and Accountability Pressure

Working Paper 13
Author(s): Cecilia Elena Rouse, Jane Hannaway, Dan Goldhaber, and David N. Figlio

This paper examines the effect of accountability policy on school practices and student outcomes with remarkably comprehensive and detailed data that include a multi-wave five-year survey of the census of public schools in Florida and administrative data on individual student performance over time. The authors show that low-performing schools facing accountability pressure changed their instructional practices in meaningful ways. In addition, they present medium-run evidence school accountability promotes improved student test scores, and find that a significant portion of these test score gains can likely be attributed to the changes in school policies and practices uncovered in these surveys.

Published: November 2007 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 623KB)

Are Public Schools Really Losing Their Best? Assessing the Career Transitions of Teachers and Their Implications for the Quality of the Teacher Workforce

Working Paper 12
Author(s): Dan Goldhaber, Betheny Gross, and Daniel Player

Most studies that have fueled alarm over the attrition and mobility rates of high-quality teachers have relied on proxy indicators of teacher quality, which recent research finds to be only weakly correlated with value-added measures of teachers' performance. We examine attrition and mobility of teachers using teacher value-added measures for early-career teachers in North Carolina public schools from 1996 to 2002. Our findings suggest that the most-effective teachers tend to stay in teaching and in specific schools. Contrary to common expectations, we do not find that more-effective teachers are more likely to leave more-challenging schools.

Published: October 2007 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 340KB)

Teacher Credentials and Student Achievement in High School: A Cross-Subject Analysis with Student Fixed Effects

Working Paper 11
Author(s): Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen F. Ladd, and Jacob L. Vigdor

One of the first papers to ever estimate teacher effects at the secondary school level, this groundbreaking work presents evidence that teacher credentials affect secondary school student success in systematic ways and to a significant, policy-relevant extent. We use data on statewide end-of-course tests in North Carolina to examine the relationship between teacher credentials and student achievement at the high school level. We find compelling evidence that teacher credentials affect student achievement in systematic ways and that the magnitudes are large enough to be policy relevant. As a result, the uneven distribution of teacher credentials by race and socio-economic status of high school students- a pattern we also document- contributes to achievement gaps in high school.

Published: October 2007 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 487KB) | journal article Journal Publication
[Journal of Human Resources 45(3):655-681 (2010)]

The Narrowing Gap in New York City Teacher Qualifications and Its Implications for Student Achievement in High Poverty Schools

Working Paper 10
Author(s): Donald J. Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, Jonah E. Rockoff, and James H. Wyckoff

This paper explores how the distribution of teacher qualifications and student achievement in New York City have changed from 2000 through 2005 using data on teachers and students. We find: the gap between the qualifications of New York City teachers in high-poverty schools and low-poverty schools has narrowed substantially over this period, and that this gap-narrowing associated with new hires has been driven almost entirely by the substitution of teachers entering through alternative certification routes, for uncertified teachers in high-poverty schools, these changes resulted from a direct policy intervention eliminating unlicensed teachers, and perhaps most intriguing, much larger gains could result if teachers with strong teacher qualifications could be recruited.

Published: September 2007 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 223KB) | journal article Journal Publication
[Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 27(4):793-818 (2008)]

Everyone's Doing It, but What Does Teacher Testing Tell Us about Teacher Effectiveness?

Working Paper 9
Author(s): Dan Goldhaber

This paper explores the relationship between teacher testing and teacher effectiveness using a unique dataset that links teachers to their individual students. My findings show a positive relationship between some teacher licensure tests and student achievement. But they also suggest that states face significant tradeoffs when they require particular performance levels as a precondition to becoming a teacher: some teachers whom we might wish were not in the teacher workforce based on their contribution toward student achievement are eligible to teach based on their performance on these tests, while other individuals who would be effective teachers are ineligible.

Published: April 2007 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 707KB) | journal article Journal Publication
[Journal of Human Resources 52(4):765-794 (2007)]

Individual Teacher Incentives And Student Performance

Working Paper 8
Author(s): David N. Figlio and Lawrence W. Kenny

This paper is the first to systematically document the relationship between individual teacher performance incentives and student achievement using United States data. We combine data from the National Education Longitudinal Survey with original survey data regarding the use of teacher incentives. We find that test scores are higher in schools offering individual financial incentives for good performance. Moreover, the relationship between the presence of merit pay and student test scores is strongest in schools that may have the least parental oversight. The association between teacher incentives and student performance could be due to better schools adopting teacher incentives or to teacher incentives eliciting more effort from teachers.

Published: April 2007 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 559KB) | journal article Journal Publication
[Journal of Public Economics 91(5-6):901-914 (2007)]

Cramming: The Effects of School Accountability on College-Bound Students

Working Paper 7
Author(s): Colleen Donovan, David N. Figlio, and Mark Rush

This paper is the first to explore the effects of school accountability systems on high-achieving students' long-term performance. Using data from a large state university, we relate school accountability pressure in high school to a student's university-level grades and study habits. We find that an accountability system based on a low-level test of basic skills apparently led to reduced performance by high-achieving students, while an accountability system based on a more challenging criterion-referenced exam apparently led to improved performance in college on mathematics and other technical subjects. Both types of systems are associated with increased "cramming" by students in college. The results indicate that the nature of an accountability system can influence its effectiveness.

Published: April 2007 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 452KB)

Efficiency and Equity in the Time Pattern of Teacher Pension Benefits

Working Paper 6
Author(s): Robert M. Costrell and Michael Podgursky

Defined Benefit pension plans often generate odd time patterns of benefits. One typical pattern exhibits low accrual in early years, accelerating in mid-late years, followed by dramatic decline, or even negative returns in years that are relatively young for retirement. We consider four states for specific analysis: Arkansas, Missouri, California and Massachusetts. There are interesting variations among these states' formulas, which affect the incentive to retire early. We identify key factors in the defined benefit formulas that drive such patterns and likely consequences for employee behavior. We examine the efficiency and equity consequences of these systems and lessons that might be drawn for pension reform.

Published: April 2007 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 451KB)

Teacher Pensions and Retirement Behavior: How Teacher Pension Rules Affect Behavior, Mobility, and Retirement

Working Paper 5
Author(s): Michael J. Podgursky and Mark W. Ehlert

This paper examines late career mobility and retirement decisions for a cohort of mid-career Missouri public school teachers. The rate of accrual of traditional defined benefit pension systems is highly nonlinear and back-loaded with most of the gain occurring in the final years prior to retirement. Also, these pension systems have rules that introduce kinks or discontinuities in the rate of accrual after 30 years. This paper explores the effect of these pension rules on retirement patterns. Missouri permits teachers to continue teaching part-time while collecting benefits. Teachers can also retire from one pension system and begin teaching in another. The paper examines both types of behavior.

Published: April 2007 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 873KB) 

The Effects of NBPTS-Certified Teachers on Student Achievement

Working Paper 4
Author(s): Douglas N. Harris and Tim R. Sass

This study considers the efficacy of a certification system for teachers established by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). The authors utilize a four-year span of the longitudinal data from Florida to determine the relationship between teacher NBPTS certification and student test scores on low-stakes and high-stakes exams. They find evidence that NBPTS certification provides a positive signal of teacher productivity in some cases, but it is highly variable. The process of becoming NBPTS certified does not appear to increase teacher productivity nor do NBPTS-certified teachers appear to enhance the productivity of their colleagues.

Published: March 2007 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 506KB) | journal article Journal Publication
[Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 28(1):55-80 (2009)]

Read commentary on this working paper by Mary Dilworth of the NBPTS, Daniel McCaffrey of the RAND Corporation, and CALDER researchers, Helen F. Ladd and Tim R. Sass

Teacher Training, Teacher Quality and Student Achievement

Working Paper 3
Author(s): Douglas N. Harris and Tim R. Sass

Using longitudinal data from the state of Florida, this study examines the effects of various types of education and training on the ability of teachers to promote student achievement. It suggests that teacher training generally has little influence on productivity. One exception is that content-focused teacher professional development is positively associated with productivity in middle and high school math. In addition, more experienced teachers appear more effective in teaching elementary and middle school reading. There is no evidence that either pre-service (undergraduate) training or the scholastic aptitude of teachers influences their ability to increase student achievement.

Published: March 2007 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 439KB) | Journal Publication

How and Why Do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?

Working Paper 2
Author(s): Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen F. Ladd, and Jacob L. Vigdor

In this paper, the authors use a ten-year span of longitudinal data from North Carolina to explore a range of questions related to the relationship between teacher characteristics and credentials, on the one hand, and student achievement on the other. They conclude that a teacher's experience, test scores and regular licensure all have positive effects on student achievement, with larger effects for math than for reading. Taken together the various teacher credentials exhibit quite large effects on math achievement, whether compared to the effects of changes in class size or to the socio-economics characteristics of students.

Published: March 2007 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 1,183KB)

Read commentary on this working paper by Mary Dilworth of the NBPTS, Daniel McCaffrey of the RAND Corporation, and CALDER researchers, Helen F. Ladd and Tim R. Sass

High Poverty Schools and the Distribution of Teachers and Principals

Working Paper 1
Author(s): Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen F. Ladd, Jacob L. Vigdor, and Justin Wheeler

The central question for this study is how the quality of the teachers and principals in high poverty schools in North Carolina compares to that in the schools serving more advantaged students. A related question is why these differences emerge. The consistency of the patterns across many measures of qualifications for both teachers and principals leaves no doubt that students in the high poverty schools are served by school personnel with lower qualifications than those in the lower poverty schools. Moreover, in many cases the differences are large. Additional evidence documents that the differences largely reflect predictable outcomes of the labor market for teachers and principals.

Published: March 2007 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 643KB)

Policy Briefs | Back to Top

Public School Choice in the District of Columbia: A Descriptive Analysis

Policy Brief 13
Author(s): Umut Özek

Increasing parental choice has been a leading theme of recent education policy intended to enhance the academic achievement of low-performing students in the United States. These policies aim to "level the playing field" in access to high-quality education for disadvantaged students who cannot otherwise afford higher-quality schooling options. Public school choice programs in D.C. are successful; disadvantaged students are able to attend higher-performing schools than their neighborhood public schools, even with prolonged commutes. Overall, the findings provide evidence that the relatively advantaged students are taking advantage of public school choice programs. However, choice exacerbates student quality disparities between low- and high-poverty schools, casting some doubt on the benefits of such programs.

Published: April 2011 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 694KB)

Teacher Layoffs: An Empirical Illustration of Seniority vs. Measures of Effectiveness

Policy Brief 12
Author(s): Donald J. Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James H. Wyckoff

Analyzing data on 4th and 5th grade teachers in New York City public schools, CALDER researchers find substantial differences in which teachers get cut under a seniority-based layoff policy versus a policy based on teacher effectiveness (value-added). The authors model the two layoff scenarios to respond to a (fictional) budget shortfall equivalent.The bottom line is that teacher layoffs based on teacher performance, preferably multiple performance measures, lead to a more effective workforce and improved student performance.

Published: July 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 336KB) | Journal Publication 

The Impact of Teacher Experience: Examining the Evidence and Policy Implications

Policy Brief 11
Author(s): Jennifer King Rice

Teacher experience is a cornerstone of traditional single–salary schedules; it drives teacher transfer policies that prioritize seniority; and it is commonly considered a major source of inequity across schools and, therefore, a target for redistribution.The underlying assumption is that experience promotes effectiveness. But is this really the case? Do students attain higher levels of achievement when taught by more experienced teachers? Recent evidence from CALDER studies provides new insight into the effects of teacher experience.

Published: August 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 623KB)

Using Performance on the Job to Inform Teacher Tenure Decisions

Policy Brief 10
Author(s): Dan Goldhaber and Michael Hansen

Race to the Top encourages states to adopt policies that measure the impact of individual teachers on student learning and use those measures to inform human capital decisions including tenure and compensation. As a number of states begin to revamp their tenure-granting policies, the idea that high-stakes personnel decisions need to be linked to direct measures of teacher effectiveness is gaining traction among education policymakers. Contributing to the debate about policies that can enhance the quality of teachers, this brief evaluates how well early-career performance signals teacher effectiveness after tenure.

Published: May 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 651KB) | journal article Journal Publication
[American Economic Review 100(2):250–255 (2010)]

Using Value-Added Measures of Teacher Quality

Policy Brief 9
Author(s): Eric A. Hanushek and Steven G. Rivkin

Can value-added measures provide valuable information to assess the quality of teachers and to create incentives for improvement? CALDER researchers tackle this important and timely question by describing the analytic framework of value-added measures, by identifying methodological concerns about value-added estimation and ways to mitigate them, and by discussing the policy uses of value-added estimates of teacher effectiveness.

Published: May 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 296KB) | journal article Journal Publication
[American Economic Review 100(2):267–271 (2010)]

Principal Effectiveness and Leadership in an Era of Accountability: What Research Says

Policy Brief 8
Author(s): Jennifer King Rice

In an era of greater school accountability, leadership matters. For decades, principals have been recognized as vital to the effectiveness of schools, but strong empirical evidence on the extent to which, and the ways in which, school leaders matter has not been available. CALDER researchers have advanced our knowledge in this area by skillfully drawing on rich state longitudinal databases. This brief synthesizes new findings on the effectiveness and distribution of principals, the characteristics of good leadership, and how best to prepare principals for this increasingly demanding job.

Published: April 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 266KB) 

| Back to Top

Do Disadvantaged Urban Schools Lose Their Best Teachers?

Policy Brief 7
Author(s): Eric A. Hanushek and Steven G. Rivkin

This research brief examines differences in teacher effectiveness by school transition status and school characteristics in a large urban school district in Texas, using estimates of teacher effectiveness based on teacher contributions to student learning outcomes across classrooms. This research finds little or no evidence to support the view that more effective teachers have higher exit probabilities. In fact, the study finds that teachers who exit are significantly less effective, on average, than those who stay.

Published: November 2008 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 232KB)

The Narrowing Gap in New York City Teacher Qualifications and Its Implications for Student Achievement in High Poverty Schools

Policy Brief 6
Author(s): Donald J. Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, Jonah E. Rockoff, and James H. Wyckoff

This important research explores the effects of district policy interventions on the distribution of teacher qualifications and student achievement. Authors use a 5-year span of individual teacher- and student-level longitudinal data from New York City (NYC) from 2000 through 2005 to estimate the differences in the effectiveness of teachers entering NYC schools through different pathways to teaching. The study finds that the gap between the qualifications of NYC teachers in high-poverty and low-poverty NYC schools has narrowed substantially since 2000, mostly ensuing from the city's concentrated effort to match exceptionally capable teachers with very needy students and the virtual substitution of newly hired uncertified teachers in high-poverty schools with new hires from alternative certification routes: NYC Teaching Fellows and Teach for America.

Published: November 2008 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 349KB) | journal article Journal Publication
[Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 27(4):793-818 (2008)]

The Texas FERPA Story

Policy Brief 5
Author(s): Daniel M. O'Brien

This research brief describes the legal and operational structure of the Texas longitudinal data system related to recent changes in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA)—which establishes the rights of parents to access their children's educational records and protects the confidentiality of student information—that more closely align law and practice. The U.S. Department of Education's FERPA Final Regulations Amendments took effect January 8, 2009.

Published: November 2008 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 257KB)

The Stability of Value-Added Measures of Teacher Quality and Implications for Teacher Compensation Policy

Policy Brief 4
Author(s): Tim R. Sass

There is little doubt that teacher quality is a key determinant of student achievement, but finding ways to identify and reward the best teachers has proven elusive. This research brief considers the stability of value-added measures of teacher effectiveness over time and the resulting implications for the design and implementation of performance-based teacher compensation schemes.

Published: November 2008 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 246KB)

Assessing the Potential of Using Value Added-Estimates of Teacher Job Performance for Making Tenure Decisions

Policy Brief 3
Author(s): Dan Goldhaber and Michael Hansen

Using individual teacher and student-level longitudinal data from North Carolina, this research brief presents selected findings from work examining the stability of value-added model estimates of teacher effectiveness, focusing on their implication for teacher tenure policies and making high stakes personnel decisions. Findings show year-to-year correlations in teacher effects are modest, but pre-tenure estimates of teacher job performance do predict estimated post-tenure performance in both math and reading, and would therefore seem to be a reasonable metric to use as a factor in making substantive teacher selection decisions.

Published: November 2008 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 293KB)

Overview of Measuring Effect Sizes: The Effect of Measurement Error

Policy Brief 2
Author(s): Donald J. Boyd, Pamela L. Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James H. Wyckoff

This research brief estimates the overall extent of test measurement error and how this varies across students using New York City student- level longitudinal data across grades 3-8 from 1999- 2007. Results reinforce the importance of accounting for measurement error, as it meaningfully increases effect size estimates associated with teacher attributes. There are important differences in teacher effectiveness that are systematically related to observed teacher attributes. Such effects are important in the formulation and implementation of personnel policies. Also, effect sizes as traditionally measured have led analysts to understate the magnitudes of effects because the standard deviation of observed scores overstates the dispersion of true achievement in the student population.

Published: November 2008 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 256KB)

Value-Added Analysis and Education Policy

Policy Brief 1
Author(s): Steven G. Rivkin

This brief describes estimation and measurement issues relevant to estimating the quality of instruction in the context of a cumulative model of learning. The discussion highlights the importance of accounting for student differences and the advantages of focusing on student achievement gains as opposed to differences in test scores.

Published: November 2007 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 218KB)

High School Diploma and GED Attainment in Florida

Research Note 1
Author(s): Tim R. Sass and Steven Cartwright

This brief calculates graduation rates for the state of Florida using longitudinal data. We describe our measurement strategies and compare them with the state's official measurement procedures. We calculate the diploma and GED attainment rates of six separate cohorts of Florida 9th graders who began high school between 1995/96 and 2000/01. We then present rates of both diploma receipt and GED receipt at four years and in later years. The results show an increasing trend in graduation rates in the state over the period studied and a substantial bump at five years, with growth flattening out after that time.

Published: July 2008 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 217KB)

The research reported here was supported in part by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305A060018 to the American Institutes for Research. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute of Education Sciences, the U.S. Department of Education, or the American Institutes for Research.

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