Matthew Kraft

Institution: Brown University

Matthew Kraft is an Associate Professor of Education and Economics at Brown University.  His research and teaching interests include the economics of education, education policy analysis, and applied quantitative methods for causal inference.  His primary work focuses on efforts to improve educator and organizational effectiveness in K–12 urban public schools.  He has published on topics including teacher coaching, teacher professional growth, teacher evaluation, teacher-parent communication, teacher layoffs, social and emotional skills, school working conditions, and extended learning time.  Previously, he taught 8th grade English in Oakland USD and 9th grade humanities at Berkeley High School in California.  He holds a doctorate in Quantitative Policy Analysis in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education as well as a master's in International Comparative Education and a B.A. in International Relations from Stanford University.


Matthew A. Kraft, Virginia S. Lovison.

Budget constraints and limited supplies of local tutors have caused many K-12 school districts to pivot from individual tutoring in-person toward small-group tutoring online to expand access to personalized instruction. We conduct a field experiment to explore the effect of increasing student-tutor ratios on middle school students’ math achievement and growth during an online tutoring program. We leverage a novel feature of the program where tutors often taught individual and small-group tutoring sessions, allowing them to directly compare their experiences across these settings. Both experimental estimates and tutor survey responses suggest 1:1 tutoring is more effective than 3:1 tutoring online. Tutoring small groups in an online format presents additional challenges for personalizing instruction, developing relationships, fostering participation, and managing student behavior.

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Matthew A. Kraft, Melissa Arnold Lyon.

We examine the state of the U.S. K-12 teaching profession over the last half century by compiling nationally representative time-series data on four interrelated constructs: occupational prestige, interest among students, the number of individuals preparing for entry, and on-the-job satisfaction. We find a consistent and dynamic pattern across every measure: a rapid decline in the 1970s, a swift rise in the 1980s extending into the mid 1990s, relative stability, and then a sustained decline beginning around 2010. The current state of the teaching profession is at or near its lowest levels in 50 years. We identify and explore a range of hypotheses that might explain these historical patterns including economic and sociopolitical factors, education policies, and school environments.

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Joshua Bleiberg, Eric Brunner, Erica Harbatkin, Matthew A. Kraft, Matthew G. Springer.

Federal incentives and requirements under the Obama administration spurred states to adopt major reforms to their teacher evaluation systems. We examine the effects of these reforms on student achievement and attainment at a national scale by exploiting their staggered implementation across states. We find precisely estimated null effects, on average, that rule out impacts as small as 0.017 standard deviations for achievement and 1.2 percentage points for high school graduation and college enrollment. We highlight five factors that likely limited the efficacy of teacher evaluation at scale: political opposition, decentralization, capacity constraints, limited generalizability, and the absence of compensating wages.

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Matthew A. Kraft, Sarah Novicoff.

We examine the fundamental and complex role that time plays in the learning process. We begin by developing a conceptual framework to elucidate the multiple obstacles schools face in converting total time in school into active learning time. We then synthesize the causal research and document a clear positive effect of additional time on student achievement typically of small to medium magnitude depending on dosage, use, and context. Further descriptive analyses reveal how large differences in the length of the school day and year across public schools are an underappreciated dimension of educational inequality in the United States. Finally, our case study of time loss in one urban district demonstrates the potential to substantially increase instructional time within existing constraints.

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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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Matthew A. Kraft, Megan Conklin, Grace Falken.

We examine the labor supply decisions of substitute teachers – a large, on-demand market with broad shortages and inequitable supply. In 2018, Chicago Public Schools implemented a targeted bonus program designed to reduce unfilled teacher absences in largely segregated Black schools with historically low substitute coverage rates. Using a regression discontinuity design, we find that incentive pay substantially improved coverage equity and raised student achievement. Changes in labor supply were concentrated among Black and Hispanic substitutes from nearby neighborhoods with experience in incentive schools. Wage elasticity estimates suggest incentives would need to be 50% of daily wages to close fill-rate gaps.

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Leigh Wedenoja, John Papay, Matthew A. Kraft.

We examine the dynamic nature of student-teacher match quality by studying the effect of having a teacher for more than one year. Using data from Tennessee and panel methods, we find that having a repeat teacher improves achievement and decreases absences, truancy, and suspensions. These results are robust to a range of tests for student and teacher sorting. High-achieving students benefit most academically and boys of color benefit most behaviorally. Effects increase with the share of repeat students in a class suggesting that classroom assignment policies intended to promote sustained student-teacher relationships such as looping may have even larger benefits.

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Matthew A. Kraft, John A. List, Jeffrey A. Livingston, Sally Sadoff.

A substantial body of experimental evidence demonstrates that in-person tutoring programs can have large impacts on K-12 student achievement. However, such programs typically are costly and constrained by a limited local supply of tutors. In partnership with CovEducation (CovEd), we conduct a pilot program that has potential to ease both of these concerns. We conduct an experiment where volunteer tutors from all over the country meet 1-on-1 with middle school students online during the school day. We find that the program produces consistently positive (0.07σ for math and 0.04σ for reading) but statistically insignificant effects on student achievement. While these estimates are notably smaller than those found in many higher-dosage in-person tutoring programs, they are from a significantly lower-cost program that was delivered within the challenging context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We provide evidence that is consistent with a dosage model of tutoring where additional hours result in larger effects.

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Matthew A. Kraft, Joshua Bleiberg.

Economic downturns can cause major funding shortfalls for U.S. public schools, often forcing districts to make difficult budget cuts including teacher layoffs. In this brief, we synthesize the empirical literature on the widespread teacher layoffs caused by the Great Recession. Studies find that teacher layoffs harmed student achievement and were inequitably distributed across schools, teachers, and students. Research suggests that specific elements of the layoff process can exacerbate these negative effects. Seniority-based policies disproportionately concentrate layoffs among teachers of color who are more likely to be early career teachers. These “last-in first-out” policies also disproportionately affect disadvantaged students because these students are more likely to be taught by early career teachers. The common practice of widely distributing pink slips warning about a potential job loss also appears to increase teacher churn and negatively impact teacher performance. Drawing on this evidence, we outline a set of policy recommendations to minimize the need for teacher layoffs during economic downturns and ensure that the burden of any unavoidable job cuts does not continue to be borne by students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.

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Jessalynn James, Matthew A. Kraft, John Papay.

We explore the dynamics of competitive search in the K-12 public education sector. Using data from Boston Public Schools, we document how teacher labor supply varies substantially by position types, schools, and the timing of job postings. We find that early-posted positions are more likely to be filled and end up securing new hires that are better-qualified, more-effective, and more likely to remain at a school. In contrast, the number of applicants to a position is largely unassociated with hire quality, suggesting that schools may struggle to identify and select the best candidates even when there is a large pool of qualified applicants. Our findings point to substantial unrealized potential for improving teacher hiring.

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