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Educator preparation, professional development, performance and evaluation
Teachers are the most important school-specific factor in student learning. Yet, little evidence exists linking teacher professional development programs and the strategies or activities that comprise them to student achievement. In this paper, we examine a fellowship model for professional development designed and implemented by Leading Educators, a national nonprofit organization that aims to bridge research and practice to improve instructional quality and accelerate learning across school systems. During the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, Leading Educators conducted its fellowship program for two cohorts of teachers and school leaders to provide these educators ongoing, collaborative, job-embedded professional development and to improve student achievement. Relying on quasi-experimental methods, we find that a school’s participation in the fellowship program significantly increased student proficiency rates in English language arts and math on state achievement exams. Student achievement benefitted from a more sustained duration of participation in the fellowship program, varied depending on the share of a school’s educators who participated in the fellowship, and differed based on whether fellows independently selected into the program or were appointed to participate by their school leaders. Taken together, findings from this paper should inform professional learning organizations, schools, and policymakers on the design, implementation, and impact of educator professional development.
This is one of the first studies of the mismatch between students’ test scores and teachers’ estimations of those scores in low- and middle-income countries. Prior studies in high-income countries have found strong correlations between these metrics. We leverage data on actual and estimated scores in math and language from India and Bangladesh and find that teachers misestimate their students’ scores and that their estimations reveal their misconceptions about students in most need of support and variability within their class. This pattern is partly explained by teachers’ propensity to overestimate the scores of low-achieving students and to overweight the importance of intelligence. Teachers seem unaware of their errors, expressing confidence in estimations and surprise about their students’ performance once revealed.
Given the spike of homicides in conflict zones of Colombia after the 2016 peace agreement, I study the causal effect of violence on college test scores. Using a difference-in-difference design with heterogeneous effects, I show how this increase in violence had a negative effect on college learning, and how this negative effect is mediated by factors such as poverty, college major, degree type, and study mode. A 10% increase in the homicide rate per 100,000 people in conflict zones of Colombia, had a negative impact on college test scores equivalent to 0.07 standard deviations in the English section of the test. This negative effect is larger in the case of poor and female students who saw a negative effect of approximately 0.16 standard deviations, equivalent to 3.4 percentage points out of the final score. Online and short-cycle students suffer a larger negative effect of 0.14 and 0.19 standard deviations respectively. This study provides among the first evidence of the negative effect of armed conflict on college learning and offers policy recommendations based on the heterogeneous effects of violence.
We study the returns to experience in teaching, estimated using supervisor ratings from classroom observations. We describe the assumptions required to interpret changes in observation ratings over time as the causal effect of experience on performance. We compare two difference-in-differences strategies: the two-way fixed effects estimator common in the literature, and an alternative which avoids potential bias arising from effect heterogeneity. Using data from Tennessee and Washington, DC, we show empirical tests relevant to assessing the identifying assumptions and substantive threats—e.g., leniency bias, manipulation, changes in incentives or job assignments—and find our estimates are robust to several threats.
Teachers affect a wide range of students’ educational and social outcomes, but how they contribute to students’ involvement in school discipline is less understood. We estimate the impact of teacher demographics and other observed qualifications on students’ likelihood of receiving a disciplinary referral. Using data that track all disciplinary referrals and the identity of both the referred and referring individuals from a large and diverse urban school district in California, we find students are about 0.2 to 0.5 percentage points (7% to 18%) less likely to receive a disciplinary referral from teachers of the same race or gender than from teachers of different demographic backgrounds. Students are also less likely to be referred by more experienced teachers and by teachers who hold either an English language learners or special education credential. These results are mostly driven by referrals for defiance and violence infractions, Black and Hispanic male students, and middle school students. While it is unclear whether these findings are due to variation in teachers’ effects on actual student behavior, variation in teachers’ proclivities to make disciplinary referrals, or a combination of the two, these results nonetheless suggest that teachers play a central role in the prevalence of, and inequities in, office referrals and subsequent student discipline.
Providing consistent, individualized feedback to teachers is essential for improving instruction but can be prohibitively resource intensive in most educational contexts. We develop an automated tool based on natural language processing to give teachers feedback on their uptake of student contributions, a high-leverage teaching practice that supports dialogic instruction and makes students feel heard. We conduct a randomized controlled trial as part of an online computer science course, Code in Place (n=1,136 instructors), to evaluate the effectiveness of the feedback tool. We find that the tool improves instructors’ uptake of student contributions by 27% and present suggestive evidence that our tool also improves students’ satisfaction with the course and assignment completion. These results demonstrate the promise of our tool to complement existing efforts in teachers’ professional development.
Many education policymakers and system leaders prioritize recruiting and developing effective school leaders as key mechanisms to improve school climate and student learning. Despite efforts to select and support successful school leaders, however, relatively little is understood about the prior professional experiences and skillsets that principals possess upon entry into their positions. In this descriptive paper, we use 14 years of administrative data on all educators in Oregon to trace the prior professional experiences and instructional effectiveness of those who become school leaders. We highlight that many principals in Oregon acquire educational leadership experience outside the assistant principal role and outside of the school district in which they serve as principals. We also find that when future school leaders were teachers, they improved student achievement at modestly higher rates than their peers. Insight into these topics has the potential to inform the pre-service training, recruitment and professional development of school leaders.
When an employee expects repeated evaluation and performance incentives over time, the potential future rewards create an incentive to invest in building relevant skills. Because new skills benefit job performance, the effects of an evaluation program can persist after the rewards end or even anticipate the start of rewards. I test for persistence and anticipation effects, along with more conventional predictions, using a quasi-experiment in Tennessee schools. Performance improves with new evaluation measures, but gains are larger when the teacher expects future rewards linked to future scores. Performance rises further when incentives start and remains higher even after incentives end.
We study teachers’ choices about how to allocate class time across different instructional activities, for example, lecturing, open discussion, or individual practice. Our data come from secondary schools in England, specifically classes preceding GCSE exams. Students score higher in math when their teacher devotes more class time to individual practice and assessment. In contrast, students score higher in English if there is more discussion and work with classmates. Class time allocation predicts test scores separate from the quality of the teacher’s instruction during the activities. These results suggest opportunities to improve student achievement without changes in teachers’ skills.