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Educator preparation, professional development, performance and evaluation

Moussa Blimpo, Todd Pugatch.

The persistently high employment share of the informal sector makes entrepreneurship a necessity for youth in many developing countries. We exploit exogenous variation in the implementation of Rwanda’s entrepreneurship education reform in secondary schools to evaluate its effect on student economic outcomes up to three years after graduation. Using a randomized controlled trial, we evaluated a three-year intensive training for entrepreneurship teachers, finding pedagogical changes as intended and increased entrepreneurial activity among students. In this paper, we tracked students following graduation and found that increased entrepreneurship persisted one year later, in 2019. Students from treated schools were six percentage points more likely to be entrepreneurs, an increase of 19 percent over the control mean. However, gains in entrepreneurship faded after three years, in 2021. Employment was six percentage points lower in the treatment group. By some measures, income and profits were lower in the treatment group, with no robust differences in these outcomes overall. Lower incomes and profits were concentrated among marginal students induced into entrepreneurship by the program. Youth entrepreneurship programs may therefore steer some participants away from their comparative advantage. Nonetheless, the program increased university enrollment, suggesting the potential for higher long run returns.

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Arielle Boguslav, Julie Cohen.

Teacher preparation programs are increasingly expected to use data on pre-service teacher (PST) skills to drive program improvement and provide targeted supports. Observational ratings are especially vital, but also prone to measurement issues. Scores may be influenced by factors unrelated to PSTs’ instructional skills, including rater standards and mentor teachers’ skills. Yet we know little about how these measurement challenges play out in the PST context. Here we investigate the reliability and sensitivity of two observational measures. We find measures collected during student teaching are especially prone to measurement issues; only 3-4% of variation in scores reflects consistent differences between PSTs, while 9-17% of variation can be attributed to the mentors with whom they work. When high scores stem not from strong instructional skills, but instead from external circumstances, we cannot use them to make consequential decisions about PSTs’ individual needs or readiness for independent teaching.

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Arzana Myderrizi.

Ample research investigates returns to teacher preparation and other instructional inputs for the general student population, yet evidence is lacking for students with disabilities (SWDs). This study uses North Carolina data to estimate achievement returns to teacher preparation by classroom type and level of classroom support for SWDs. I find that SWDs perform better when placed in inclusive classrooms and when these classrooms have co-teachers. Regardless of classroom type, SWDs benefit from more experienced teachers, but only gain from special education certified teachers in certain classroom configurations. These results indicate that education leaders can optimize resource allocation by minimizing separate classrooms for SWDs, relaxing special education certification requirements, and investing in an experienced teacher workforce with support from co-teachers.

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Zachary Himmelsbach, Heather C. Hill, Jing Liu, Dorottya Demszky.

This study provides the first large-scale quantitative exploration of mathematical language use in U.S. classrooms. Our approach employs natural language processing techniques to describe variation in the use of mathematical language in 1,657 fourth and fifth grade lessons by teachers and students in 317 classrooms in four districts over three years. Students’ exposure to mathematical language varies substantially across lessons and between teachers. Students whose teachers use more mathematical language are more likely to use it themselves, and they perform better on standardized tests. These findings suggest that teachers play a substantial role in students’ mathematical language use.

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Danielle Sanderson Edwards, Matthew A. Kraft, Alvin Christian, Christopher A. Candelaria.

We develop a unifying conceptual framework for understanding and predicting teacher shortages at the state, region, district, and school levels. We then generate and test hypotheses about geographic and subject variation in teacher shortages using data on unfilled teaching positions in Tennessee during the fall of 2019. We find that teacher staffing challenges are highly localized, causing shortages and surpluses to coexist. Aggregate descriptions of staffing challenges mask considerable variation between schools and subjects within districts. Schools with fewer local early-career teachers, smaller district salary increases, worse working conditions, and higher historical attrition rates have higher vacancy rates. Our findings illustrate why viewpoints about, and solutions to, shortages depend critically on whether one takes an aggregate or local perspective.

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William Delgado.

Does student-teacher match quality exist? Prior work has documented large disparities in teachers' impacts across student types but has not distinguished between sorting and causal effects as the drivers of these disparities. I propose a disparate value-added model and derive a novel measure of teacher quality---revealed comparative advantage---that captures the degree to which teachers affect student outcome gaps. Quasi-experimental changes in teaching staff show that the comparative advantage measure accurately predicts teachers’ disparate impacts: a teacher with a 1 standard deviation in revealed comparative advantage for black students increases black students' test scores by 1 standard deviation and has no effect on non-black students' test scores. Teacher removal and teacher-to-classroom re-allocation simulations show substantial efficiency and equity gains of considering teachers’ comparative advantage.

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Brendan Bartanen, Courtney Bell, Jessalynn James, Eric S. Taylor, James H. Wyckoff.

Novice teachers improve substantially in their first years on the job, but we know remarkably little about the nature of this skill development. Using data from Tennessee, we leverage a feature of the classroom observation protocol that asks school administrators to identify an item on which the teacher should focus their improvement efforts. This “area of refinement” overcomes a key measurement challenge endemic to inferring from classroom observation scores the development of specific teaching skills. We show that administrators disproportionately identify two teaching skills when observing novice teachers: classroom management and presenting content. Struggling with classroom management, in particular, is linked to high rates of novice teacher attrition. Among those who remain, we observe subsequent improvement in these skills.

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Mei Tan, Dorottya Demszky.

Teachers’ attitudes and classroom management practices critically affect students’ academic and behavioral outcomes, contributing to the persistent issue of racial disparities in school discipline. Yet, identifying and improving classroom management at scale is challenging, as existing methods require expensive classroom observations by experts. We apply natural language processing methods to elementary math classroom transcripts to computationally measure the frequency of teachers’ classroom management language in instructional dialogue and the degree to which such language is reflective of punitive attitudes. We find that the frequency and punitiveness of classroom management language show strong and systematic correlations with human-rated observational measures of instructional quality, student and teacher perceptions of classroom climate, and student academic outcomes. Our analyses reveal racial disparities and patterns of escalation in classroom management language. We find that classrooms with higher proportions of Black students experience more frequent and more punitive classroom management. The frequency and punitiveness of classroom management language escalate over time during observations, and these escalations occur more severely for classrooms with higher proportions of Black students. Our results demonstrate the potential of automated measures and position everyday classroom management interactions as a critical site of intervention for addressing racial disparities, preventing escalation, and reducing punitive attitudes.

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Nhu Nguyen, Ben Ost, Javaeria Qureshi.

We document that recent generations of elementary school teachers are significantly more effective in raising student test scores than those from earlier generations. Measuring teachers’ value-added for Black and white students separately, the improvements in teaching for Black students are significantly larger than those seen for white students. The race-specific improvements in teacher quality are driven by white teachers. Analyses of mechanisms suggest that changing teachers’ biases may be one potential channel. Our results suggest reason for optimism since these teacher quality differences should lead to improved student learning and a narrowing of the Black-white test score gap over time.

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Seth Gershenson, Constance A. Lindsay, Nicholas W. Papageorge, Romaine Campbell, Jessica H. Rendon.

The US teaching force remains disproportionately white while the student body grows more diverse. It is therefore important to understand how and under what conditions white teachers learn racial competency. This study applies a mixed-methods approach to investigate the hypothesis that Black peers improve white teachers’ effectiveness when teaching Black students. The quantitative portion of this study relies on longitudinal data from North Carolina to show that having a Black same-grade peer significantly improves the achievement and reduces the suspension rates of white teachers’ Black students. These effects are persistent over time and largest for novice teachers. Qualitative evidence from open-ended interviews of North Carolina public school teachers reaffirms these findings. Broadly, our findings suggest that the positive impact of Black teachers’ ability to successfully teach Black students is not limited to their direct interaction with Black students but is augmented by spillover effects on early-career white teachers, likely through peer learning.

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