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Educator preparation, professional development, performance and evaluation

Seth B. Hunter, Katherine M. Bowser.

We extend teacher evaluation research by estimating a reformed evaluation system's plausibly causal average effects on rural student achievement, identifying the settings where evaluation works, and incorporating evaluation expenditures. That the literature omits these contributions is concerning as research implies it hinders evidence-based teacher evaluation policymaking for rural districts, which outnumber urban districts. We apply a difference-in-differences framework to Missouri administrative data. Missouri districts could design and maintain reformed systems or outsource these tasks for a small fee to organizations like the Network for Educator Effectiveness (NEE), an evaluation system created for rural users. NEE does not affect student achievement on average but it improves math, and possibly reading, achievement in rural schools where the average student's prior-year achievement score is below the state average or the average teacher's years of experience are below the state average.

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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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Andrew Kwok, Tuan D. Nguyen.

This concurrent mixed methods study descriptively explores teacher residency programs (TRPs) across the nation. We examine program and participant survey data from the National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR) to identify important TRP structures for resident support. Latent class analysis of program-level data reveals three types of TRPs (locally-funded low tuition, multi-funded multifaceted, and federally-funded post-residency support), while regression models indicate significant relationships between individual program structures and participant (residents, graduates, mentors, and principals) perceptions. Qualitative analyses of multiple open response items across participants details four salient TRP structures: providing extended clinical experience, localizing individual support, offering programmatic training, and teaching practical professional knowledge. Findings inform policymakers on TRP investment, practitioners about program design, and researchers for continued large-scale evidence.

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Kathryn E. Gonzalez, Olivia Healy, Luke Miratrix, Terri J. Sabol.

Despite considerable evidence on the links between average classroom quality and children’s learning, the importance of variation in quality is not well understood. We examined whether three measures of variation in observed classroom quality over the school year – overall variation in quality, teacher-specific trends in quality, and instability in quality – were associated with children’s language, literacy, and regulatory outcomes. We also examined whether variation in quality was associated with teachers’ participation in coaching. Overall variation and instability in emotional support and classroom organization over the year were negatively associated with children’s regulatory and literacy outcomes. Participation in coaching was linked to increased variation only in instructional support. We discuss implications for policies focused on improving classroom quality.

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Danielle Sanderson Edwards, Matthew A. Kraft.

“Grow Your Own” (GYO) programs have recently emerged as a promising approach to expand teacher supply, address localized teacher shortages, and diversify the profession. However, little is known about the scale and design of GYO programs, which recruit and support individuals from the local community to become teachers. We conduct a quantitative content analysis to describe 94 GYO initiatives. We find that GYO is used broadly as an umbrella term to describe teacher pipeline programs with very different purposes, participants, and program features. Our results suggest that misalignment between some GYOs’ purposes and program features may inhibit their effectiveness. Finally, we propose a new typology to facilitate more precise discussions of GYO programs.

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Sarah Novicoff, Thomas S. Dee.

While policymakers have demonstrated considerable enthusiasm for “science of reading” initiatives, the evidence on the impact of related reforms when implemented at scale is limited. In this pre-registered, quasi-experimental study, we examine California’s recent initiative to improve early literacy across the state’s lowest-performing elementary schools. The Early Literacy Support Block Grant (ELSBG) provided teacher professional development grounded in the science of reading as well as aligned supports (e.g., assessments and interventions), new funding (about $1000 per student), spending flexibility within specified guidelines, and expert facilitation and oversight of school-based planning. We find that ELSBG generated significant (and cost-effective) improvements in ELA achievement in its first two years of implementation (0.14 SD) as well as smaller, spillover improvements in math achievement.

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Brendan Bartanen, Aliza N. Husain, David D. Liebowitz.

School principals are viewed as critical actors to improve student outcomes, but there remain important methodological questions about how to measure principals’ effects. We propose a framework for measuring principals’ contributions to student outcomes and apply it empirically using data from Tennessee, New York City, and Oregon. As commonly implemented, value-added models misattribute to principals changes in student performance caused by unobserved time-varying factors over which principals exert minimal control, leading to biased estimates of individual principals’ effectiveness and an overstatement of the magnitude of principal effects. Based on our framework, which better accounts for bias from time-varying factors, we find that little of the variation in student test scores or attendance is explained by persistent effectiveness differences between principals. Across contexts, the estimated standard deviation of principal value-added is roughly 0.03 student-level standard deviations in math achievement and 0.01 standard deviations in reading.

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Dorottya Demszky, Jing Liu, Heather C. Hill, Shyamoli Sanghi, Ariel Chung.

While recent studies have demonstrated the potential of automated feedback to enhance teacher instruction in virtual settings, its efficacy in traditional classrooms remains unexplored. In collaboration with TeachFX, we conducted a pre-registered randomized controlled trial involving 523 Utah mathematics and science teachers to assess the impact of automated feedback in K-12 classrooms. This feedback targeted “focusing questions” – questions that probe students’ thinking by pressing for explanations and reflection. Our findings indicate that automated feedback increased teachers’ use of focusing questions by 20%. However, there was no discernible effect on other teaching practices. Qualitative interviews revealed mixed engagement with the automated feedback: some teachers noticed and appreciated the reflective insights from the feedback, while others had no knowledge of it. Teachers also expressed skepticism about the accuracy of feedback, concerns about data security, and/or noted that time constraints prevented their engagement with the feedback. Our findings highlight avenues for future work, including integrating this feedback into existing professional development activities to maximize its effect.

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Zid Mancenido, Heather C. Hill, Jeannette Garcia Coppersmith, Hannah Carter, Cynthia Pollard, Chris Monschauer.

Practice-based teacher education has increasingly been adopted as an alternative to more traditional, conceptually-focused pedagogies, yet the field lacks causal evidence regarding the relative efficacy of these approaches. To address this issue, we randomly assigned 185 college students to one of three experimental conditions reflective of common conceptually-focused and practice-based teacher preparation pedagogies. We find significant and large positive effects of practice-based pedagogies on participants’ skills in eliciting and responding to student thinking as demonstrated through a written assessment and a short teaching episode. Our findings contribute to a developing evidence base that can assist policymakers and teacher educators in designing effective teacher preparation at scale.

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Rui Wang.

While it is commonly believed that teachers take more absences than other professionals, few empirical studies have systematically investigated the prevalence of teacher absences in the US. This study documents the level of teacher absences and compares it with other college-educated workers. Using the Monthly Current Population Survey between the 1995 and 2019 school years, we conduct descriptive and regression analysis to estimate the level of teacher absences and the absence gaps between teachers and other college-educated workers. Additional regression analysis using data from the Leave Module of the American Time Use Survey is conducted to explain the gaps in absences between teachers and other observationally similar college-educated workers. The analysis reveals that 7% of teachers are absent at least once weekly, accounting for around 4% of their weekly working time. Compared to observationally similar college-educated workers, teachers take the same, if not less, amount of absences. Further investigation of teachers’ absence behaviour indicates that teachers report fewer demands for absences, have fewer paid leaves, and are more likely to attend work despite needing to be absent. We also find that individuals who prefer fewer absences tend to enter the teaching profession. This study adds to the emerging group of research examining the nature, determinants, and consequences of teacher absences using national-level data. Our findings imply that policymakers may be able to use more support programs to increase teacher attendance.

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