David Blazar

Institution: University of Maryland

David Blazar is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland College Park in the Education Policy program. He also is the Faculty Director of the Maryland Equity Project, an Affiliate at the School of Public Policy, and an Affiliate at the Maryland Population Research Center. Substantively, his research examines resources that best support student outcomes and alleviate inequality, with a particular focus on teacher and teaching quality. His current research projects focus largely on questions related to educator diversity, including: Why is it that educator diversity matters for students and for schools? What are the policies and programs that are effective at diversifying the educator workforce? How can school systems ensure that educators of color have successful experiences once they enter schools and classrooms? Methodologically, he primarily examines and employs research designs that aim to support causal conclusions. His research has been published in American Education Research Journal, Economics of Education Review, Educational Researcher, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Review of Educational Research, among other publications; as well as covered in national press outlets including The Atlantic, ChalkBeat, Education Week, The Hechinger Report, and U.S. News and World Report. Dr. Blazar received the Excellence in Scholarship (Pre-Tenure) award from the University of Maryland College of Education, and the Jean Flanigan Outstanding Dissertation Award from the Association for Education Finance and Policy. He received his doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in quantitative policy analysis in education with a disciplinary focus in economics. He also holds an Ed.M. in policy and management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a B.A. in history and literature from Harvard College. Prior to graduate school, he taught high-school English Language Arts in New York City.


David Blazar, Wenjing Gao, Seth Gershenson, Ramon Goings, Francisco Lagos.

Local teacher recruitment through “grow-your-own” programs is a prominent strategy to address workforce shortages and ensure that incoming teachers resemble, understand, and have strong connections to their communities. We exploit the staggered rollout of the Teacher Academy of Maryland career and technical education certificate program across public high schools, finding that exposed students were more likely to become teachers by 0.6 percentage points (pp), or 47%. Effects are concentrated among White girls (1.4pp/39%) and Black girls (0.7pp/80%). We also identify positive impacts on wages (5% on average/18% for Black girls), countering a prevailing narrative that teaching leaves one worse off financially relative to other labor market opportunities.

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David Blazar, Max Anthenelli, Wenjing Gao, Ramon Goings, Seth Gershenson.

Mounting evidence supporting the advantages of a diverse teacher workforce prompts policymakers to scrutinize existing recruitment pathways. Following four cohorts of Maryland public high-school students over 12 years reveals several insights. Early barriers require timely interventions, aiding students of color in achieving educational milestones that are prerequisites for teacher candidacy (high school graduation, college enrollment). While alternative pathways that bypass traditional undergraduate teacher preparation may help, current approaches still show persistent racial disparities. Data simulations underscore the need for race-conscious policies specifically targeting or differentially benefiting students of color, as race-neutral strategies have minimal impact. Ultimately, multiple race-conscious policy solutions addressing various educational milestones must demonstrate significant effectsapproximately 30% increasesto reshape the teacher workforce to align with student body demographics.

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David Blazar.

Black teachers are critical resources for our children and schools. Pairing experimental data with rich measures of teacher mindsets and practices and varied student outcomes, I document that: (1) Black teachers in upper-elementary grades have large effects on the self-efficacy and classroom engagement of their Black students (0.7 and 0.8 SD) but not for non-Black students, potentially driven by role modeling; (2) race-matching effects on Black students’ social-emotional learning explain a moderate to large share of effects on more distal outcomes, including absences and test scores; (3) Black teachers also benefit the test scores (0.2 SD) and absences (over 20% decrease) of all students—no matter their race/ethnicity—that often persist many years later into high school; and (4) in addition to potential role-modeling channels, Black teachers bring unique mindsets and practices to their work (e.g., preparation for and differentiated instruction, growth mindset beliefs, well-organized classrooms) that mediate a moderate to large share of their effects on student outcomes. These findings help bridge the quantitative “teacher like me” literature with theoretical discussion and qualitative exploration on why Black teachers matter.

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David Blazar, Cynthia Pollard.

The pursuit of multiple educational outcomes makes teaching a complex craft subject to potential conflicts and competing commitments. Using a dataset in which teachers were randomly assigned to students paired with videotapes of instruction, we both document and unpack such a tradeoff. Upper-elementary teachers who excel at raising students’ math test scores often are less successful at improving student-reported engagement in class (and vice versa). Further, the teaching practices that improve math test scores (e.g., cognitively demanding content) can simultaneously decrease engagement. At the same time, paired quantitative and qualitative analyses reveal two areas of practice that support both outcomes: active mathematics with opportunities for hands-on participation; and established routines and procedures to proactively organize the classroom environment. In addition to guiding practice-based teacher education, our mixed-methods analysis can serve as a model for rigorously studying and identifying dimensions of “good” teaching that promote multidimensional student development.

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David Blazar, Beth Schueler.

What guidance does research provide school districts about how to improve system performance and increase equity? Despite over 30 years of inquiry on the topic of effective districts, existing frameworks are relatively narrow in terms of disciplinary focus (primarily educational leadership perspectives) and research design (primarily qualitative case studies). To bridge this gap, we first review the theoretical literatures on how districts are thought to affect student outcomes, arguing that an expanded set of disciplinary perspectives—organizational behavior, political science, and economics—have distinct theories about why districts matter. Next, we conduct a systematic review of quantitative studies that estimate the relationship between district-level inputs and performance outcomes. This review reveals benefits of district-level policies that cross disciplinary perspectives, including higher teacher salaries and strategic hiring, lower student-teacher ratios, and data use. One implication is that future research on district-level policymaking needs to consider multiple disciplinary perspectives. Our review also reveals the need for significant additional causal evidence and provides a multidisciplinary map of theorized pathways through which districts could influence student outcomes that are ripe for rigorous testing.

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David Blazar, Doug McNamara, Genine Blue.

Instructional coaching is an attractive alternative to one-size-fits-all teacher training and development in part because it is purposefully differentiated: programming is aligned to individual teachers’ needs and implemented by an individual coach. But, how much of the benefit of coaching as an instructional improvement model depends on the specific coach with whom a teacher works? Collaborating with a national teacher training and development organization, TNTP, we find substantial variability in effectiveness across coaches in terms of changes in teachers’ classroom practice (0.43 standard deviations). The magnitude of coach effectiveness heterogeneity is close to average coaching program effects identified in other research. These findings suggest that identifying, recruiting, and supporting highly skilled coaches will be key to scaling instructional coaching programs.

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