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Educator preparation, professional development, performance and evaluation

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David B. Monaghan, Elizabeth A. Hawke.

“Free college” programs are widespread in American higher education. They are discussed as addressing college access, affordability, inequality, and skills shortages. Many are last-dollar tuition guarantees restricted to use at single community colleges. Using student-level data spanning the transition to college, we investigate how two similar local community college tuition guarantees in Pennsylvania affected college-going outcomes. The Morgan Success Scholarship has large impacts on community college attendance and associate degree attainment. The program diverts students away from four-year colleges, though much of this effect is temporary. Meanwhile, we find little evidence that the Community College of Philadelphia’s 50th Anniversary Scholars program has any impact on college-going behavior. We suggest reasons for divergent findings and offer suggestions for practice.

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Alvin Christian, Matthew Ronfeldt, Basit Zafar.

We survey undergraduate students at a large public university to understand the pecuniary and non-pecuniary factors driving their college major and career decisions with a focus on K-12 teaching. While the average student reports there is a 6% chance they will pursue teaching, almost 27% report a nonzero chance of working as a teacher in the future. Students, relative to existing statistics, generally believe they would earn substantially more in a non-teaching job (relative to a teaching job). We run a randomized information experiment where we provide students with information on the pecuniary and non-pecuniary job characteristics of teachers and non-teachers. This low-cost informational intervention impacts students' beliefs about their job characteristics if they were to work as a teacher or non-teacher, and increases the reported likelihood they will major or minor in education by 35% and pursue a job as a teacher or in education by 14%. Linking the survey data with administrative transcript records, we find that the intervention had small (and weak) impacts on the decision to minor in education in the subsequent year. Overall, our results indicate that students hold biased beliefs about their career prospects, they update these beliefs when provided with information, and that this information has limited impacts on their choices regarding studying and having a career in teaching.

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Sarah Guthery, Kathryn Dixon.

We use frame analysis to analyze the first iteration of the Texas District of Innovation policy, which allows districts to take exemption from state education requirements mandating the hiring of a state certified teacher. We analyzed 451 district policies and find the plans use very similar, and sometimes identical, language to frame both the problem of teacher shortage and their proposed solutions, even though the districts may be geographically and demographically different. The districts most often propose two solutions to the certified teacher shortage, 1) flexibility and 2) local control over teacher certification decisions, including hiring unlicensed teachers and locally certified teachers.

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Sara R. Sands.

Despite the popularity of teacher leadership since the 1980s, little research examines its effects on student achievement. In this paper, I assess the influence of the New York City Department of Education’s Teacher Career Pathways program, a teacher leadership initiative, on student achievement in grades three through eight. Using difference-in-difference approaches, including new event study estimators, I find that where school leaders staffed teacher leaders into formal roles with defined responsibilities, positional authority, and commensurate salary increases, student achievement in ELA and math improves. Moreover, the improvement in scores compounds over time, with schools exhibiting increasing gains in each year following the initial introduction of teacher leaders. Schools that do not staff teacher leaders do not observe similar outcomes. I consider these results in the context of democratic policymaking and teacher empowerment, suggesting that teachers must be formally empowered in schools to lead meaningful changes that ultimately improve student achievement.

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Brendan Bartanen, Aliza N. Husain, David D. Liebowitz, Laura K. Rogers.

Despite increasing recognition of the importance of high-quality school leadership, we know remarkably little about principal skill development. Using administrative data from Tennessee, Oregon, and New York City, we estimate the returns to principal experience as measured by student outcomes, teacher hiring and retention patterns, and teacher and supervisor ratings of principals. The typical principal leads a school for only 3–5 years and leaves the principalship after 6–7 years. We find little evidence that school performance improves as principals gain experience, despite substantial improvement in supervisor ratings. Our results suggest that strategies intended to increase principal retention are unlikely to improve school outcomes absent more comprehensive efforts to strengthen the link between principal skill development and student and school outcomes.

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Constance A. Lindsay, Simone Wilson, Jacqueline Kumar, Tia Byers, Seth Gershenson.

This paper investigates how teachers learn about race in the school context, with a particular focus on teachers’ development of racial competency. Using in-depth, semi-structured interviews we find that teachers learn through three sources: from their peers, from years of experience, and from teacher preparation and in-service experiences. Furthermore, we find that learning occurs both informally and formally and that these sources of learning are moderated by three contextual factors: career status, school culture, and out-of-school factors We find that teachers rely most on informal avenues and encounters to develop racial competency.

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Eric S. Taylor.

When employees expect evaluation and performance incentives will continue (or begin) in the future, the potential future rewards create an incentive to invest in relevant skills today. Because skills benefit job performance, the effects of evaluation can persist after the rewards end or even anticipate the start of rewards. I provide empirical evidence of these dynamics from a quasi-experiment in Tennessee schools. New performance measures improve teachers’ value-added contributions to student achievement. But improvements are twice as large when the teacher also expects future rewards linked to future scores. Value-added remains at the now higher level after performance incentives end.

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Maya Kaul.

Teachers’ professional identities are the foundation of their practice. Previous scholarship has largely overlooked the extent to which the broader reform culture shapes teachers’ professional identities. In this study, I draw on survey data from 950 teachers across four US states (California, New York, Florida, and Texas) to examine the extent to which teachers’ professional identities are associated with what I term “institutionalized conceptions” of their roles. Across diverse state policy contexts, I find that teachers draw upon a shared set of institutionalized conceptions of their roles, which are associated with their professional identities. The findings suggest that the taken-for-granted ways society frames teaching may be associated with dimensions of teachers’ professional identity, such as self-efficacy and professional commitment.

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Mary E. Laski.

Teacher shortages are a persistent challenge in the United States. I evaluate the effectiveness of an innovative pilot program that allowed principals to hand-select experienced staff members and paraeducators already working in schools to lead classrooms. Pilot educators are predominantly Black or African American. Districts reported randomly assigning students to teachers, and my analysis cannot reject randomization. Controlling for demographics and baseline scores, I find that students assigned to these pilot teachers perform just as well as those assigned to traditionally licensed teachers on average and outperform their peers in math. My results point to an untapped resource of potential teachers and underscore the value of principals’ local knowledge to identify capable candidates for teaching positions.

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Michael Bates, Andrew C. Johnston.

Why do employers offer pensions? We empirically explore two theoretical rationales, namely that pensions may improve worker effort and worker selection. We examine these hypotheses using administrative measures on effort and output in public schools around the pension-eligibility notch. When workers cross the notch their effective compensation falls significantly, but we observe no reduction in worker effort and output. This implies that pension payments do not increase effort. As for selection, we find that pensions retain low-value-added and high-value-added workers at the same rate, suggesting pensions have little or no influence on selection.

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