Teacher Effectiveness

Research Overview

In the fall of 2010, NCTE commenced three years of data collection and observations of math instruction across approximately 50 schools and 300 classrooms, respectively. Data was collected from several sources, including multiple classroom observations, student assessment data, and teacher surveys to accurately capture how teachers impact student achievement.

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McGinn, D., Kelcey, B., Hill, H., & Chin, M. (Working Paper). Using Item Response Theory to Learn about Observational Instruments.Abstract

As many states are slated to soon use scores derived from classroom observation instruments in high-stakes decisions, developers must cultivate methods for improving the functioning of these instruments. We show how multidimensional, multilevel item response theory models can yield information critical for improving the performance of observational instruments.

Blazar, D., Gogolen, C., Hill, H. C., Humez, A., & Lynch, K. (2014). Predictors of Teachers' Instructional Practices.Abstract

We extend this line of research by investigating teacher career and background characteristics, personal resources, and school and district resources that predict an array of instructional practices identified on a mathematics-specific observational instrument, MQI, and a general instrument, CLASS. To understand these relationships, we use correlation and regression analyses. For a subset of teachers for whom we have data from multiple school years, we exploit within-teacher, cross-year variation to examine the relationship between class composition and instructional quality that is not confounded with the sorting of "better" students to "better" teachers. We conclude that multiple teacher- and school-level characteristics--rather than a single factor--are related to teachers' classroom practices.

Kraft, M. A., & Papay, J. P. (2014). Can Professional Environments in Schools Promote Teacher Development? Explaining Heterogeneity in Returns to Teaching Experience. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis , 36 (4), 476-500. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Although wide variation in teacher effectiveness is well established, much less is known about differences in teacher improvement over time. We document that average returns to teaching experience mask large variation across individual teachers, and across groups of teachers working in different schools. We examine the role of school context in explaining these differences using a measure of the professional environment constructed from teachers’ responses to state-wide surveys. Our analyses show that teachers working in more supportive professional environments improve their effectiveness more over time than teachers working in less supportive contexts. On average, teachers working in schools at the 75th percentile of professional environment ratings improved 38% more than teachers in schools at the 25th percentile after ten years.

Hill, H. C., Gogolen, C., Litke, E., Humez, A., Blazar, D., Corey, D., Barmore, J., et al. (2013). Examining High and Low Value-Added Mathematics: Can Expert Observers Tell the Difference? In Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management Fall Research Conference . Washington, DC.Abstract

In this study, we use value-added scores and video data in order to mount an exploratory study of high- and low-VAM teachers' instruction. Specifically, we seek to answer two research questions: First, can expert observers of mathematics instruction distinguish between high- and low-VAM teachers solely by observing their instruction? Second, what instructional practices, if any, consistently characterize high but not low-VAM teacher classrooms? To answer these questions, we use data generated by 250 fourth- and fifth-grade math teachers and their students in four large public school districts.Preliminary analyses indicate that a teacher's value-added rank was often not obvious to this team of expert observers.

Kane, T. J., Taylor, E., Tyler, J., & Wooten, A. (2011). Identifying Effective Classroom Practices Using Student Achievement Data. The Journal of Human Resources , 46 (3), 587-613.Abstract

This paper combines information from classroom-based observations and measures of teachers’ ability to improve student achievement as a step toward addressing the challenge of identifying effective teachers and teaching practices. The authors find that classroom-based measures of teaching effectiveness are related in substantial ways to student achievement growth. The authors conclude that the results point to the promise of teacher evaluation systems that would use information from both classroom observations and student test scores to identify effective teachers. Information on the types of practices that are most effective at raising achievement is also highlighted.

Chin, M., Hill, H., McGinn, D., Staiger, D., & Buckley, K. (2013). Using Validity Criteria to Enable Model Selection: An Exploratory Analysis. Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management Fall Research Conference.Abstract

In this paper, the authors propose that an important determinant of value-added model choice should be alignment with alternative indicators of teacher and teaching quality. Such alignment makes sense from a theoretical perspective because better alignment is thought to indicate more valid systems. To provide initial evidence on this issue, they first calculated value-added scores for all fourth and fifth grade teachers within four districts, then extracted scores for 160 intensively studied teachers.Initial analyses using a subset of alternative indicators suggest that alignment between value-added scores and alternative indicators differ by model, though not significantly.

Cascio, E. U., & Staiger, D. O. (2012). Knowledge, Tests, and Fadeout in Educational Interventions. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Educational interventions are often evaluated and compared on the basis of their impacts on test scores. Decades of research have produced two empirical regularities: interventions in later grades tend to have smaller effects than the same interventions in earlier grades, and the test score impacts of early educational interventions almost universally “fade out” over time. This paper explores whether these empirical regularities are an artifact of the common practice of rescaling test scores in terms of a student’s position in a widening distribution of knowledge. If a standard deviation in test scores in later grades translates into a larger difference in knowledge, an intervention’s effect on normalized test scores may fall even as its effect on knowledge does not. We evaluate this hypothesis by fitting a model of education production to correlations in test scores across grades and with college-going using both administrative and survey data. Our results imply that the variance in knowledge does indeed rise as children progress through school, but not enough for test score normalization to fully explain these empirical regularities.

Bacher-Hicks, A., Chin, M., Hill, H., & Staiger, D. (Working Paper). Explaining Teacher Effects on Achievement Using Measures from Multiple Research Traditions.Abstract

Researchers have identified many characteristics of teachers and teaching that contribute to student outcomes. However, most studies investigate only a small number of these characteristics, likely underestimating the overall contribution. In this paper, we use a set of 28 teacher-level predictors drawn from multiple research traditions to explain teacher-level variation in student outcomes. These predictors collectively explain 28% of teacher-level variability in state standardized math test scores and 40% in a predictor-aligned math test. In addition, each individual predictor explains only a small, relatively unique portion of the total teacher-level variability. This first finding highlights the importance of choosing predictors and outcomes that are well aligned, and the second suggests that the phenomena underlying teacher effects is multidimensional. 

Cantrell, S., Fullerton, J., Kane, T. J., & Staiger, D. O. (2008). National Board Certification and Teacher Effectiveness: Evidence from a Random Assignment Experiment.Abstract

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) assesses teaching practice based on videos and essays submitted by teachers. For this study, the authors compared the performance of classrooms of elementary students in Los Angeles randomly assigned to NBPTS applicants and to comparison teachers. The authors conclude that students assigned to highly-rated applicants outperformed those in the comparison classrooms by more than those assigned to poorly-rated teachers. Moreover, the estimates with and without random assignment were similar.

Papay, J., West, M., Fullerton, J., & Kane, T. (2011). Does Practice-Based Teacher Preparation Increase Student Achievement? Early Evidence from the Boston Teacher Residency.Abstract

Center researchers John Papay, Martin West, Jon Fullerton, and Thomas Kane investigate the effectiveness of the Boston Teacher Residency (BTR) in their working paper Does Practice-Based Teacher Preparation Increase Student Achievement? Early Evidence from the Boston Teacher Residency.  BTR is an innovative practice-based preparation program in which candidates work alongside a mentor teacher for a year before becoming a teacher of record in Boston Public Schools.