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Special Projects

On this page, you'll find information on specially commissioned projects. CALDER is committed to independent and scientific research that evaluates the impact of teacher policies: hiring, compensation, and certification; governance policies: accountability and choice; and social and economic community conditions: changing student demographics and resources on outcomes for teachers and students.

CALDER makes significant technical contributions to the education field as we engage new rich longitudinal databases to help guide policymaking. Our current research projects cover three impact areas:

  • teacher effectiveness and teacher labor markets
  • school reform and governance
  • effective schools research

Teacher Quality Distribution Project

Principal Investigator: Michael Hansen
Funding: US Department of Education through Mathematica Public Research

In partnership with Mathematic Policy Research, CALDER is participating in a study commissioned by the US Department of Education examining the distribution of teacher effectiveness in set of 30 diverse school districts across the country. Specifically the Department is interested in the distribution of teacher effectiveness within these districts, any policy interventions districts have implemented to address inequitable distribution of teacher effectiveness, and the relationship between district policies and the teacher effectiveness distribution within the district.

Gates Human Capital Reform Project
Principal Investigators: Jane Hannaway and Dan Goldhaber
Funding: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

CALDER is currently engaged in a major effort for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to evaluate the elements and functioning of human capital management systems-training, recruitment, assignment and retention of high quality teachers and school leaders in K-12 education and to provide models of reform for human resource management strategies in K-12 education.

W.T. Grant Project: Design Parameters for Clustered Randomization Studies
Principal Investigator: Jane Hannaway with Zeyu Xu
Funding: William T. Grant Foundation

We are estimating the detectable effects of alternative designs for studies that randomize schools or classrooms. We are evaluating how precision of estimates in clustered randomization studies can be improved by using covariates. The rich longitudinal data from two states: North Carolina and Florida that link students and teachers to specific classrooms allow us, for the first time in clustered randomization research, to estimate the Minimum Detectable Effect Sizes (MDES) using 3-level models that include school-level, classroom-level and student-level variance components across a large number of school districts in these states.

NSF High School Math and Science Pipeline Study
Principal Investigator: Luke C. Miller
Funding: National Science Foundation

This study is a four-year longitudinal research project that examines the impact of different high school reform efforts on student pipeline progression in math and science in North Carolina. We examine three high school reforms: High Schools that Work, high school conversions to small schools, and Early College High Schools. The analysis builds on research showing that not only is important how many math and science courses students take but also which courses they take and when they take them. The study will contribute significantly to the current research, policy, and best practices focused on graduating high school students prepared for the demands of post-secondary education and the global economy. Julie Edmunds of SERVE Center at UNC-Greensboro is the co-principal investigator.

High-Poverty/Low Poverty Teacher Project
Principal Investigator: Jane Hannaway with Tim SassDavid FiglioZeyu Xu, and Li Feng
Funding: U.S. Department of Education through RTI International

CALDER researchers are conducting a comparative analysis of teacher contributions to student achievement gains in mathematics and reading/ language arts in Title I schools (high-poverty schools) and in non-Title I schools (low-poverty schools). Achievement disparities between students from poverty backgrounds and students from more affluent backgrounds is a major public policy concern. Research findings will inform policymakers and school officials about steps likely to improve teacher effectiveness, particularly in high-poverty schools. The study uses longitudinal student achievement data linked to teachers from Florida and North Carolina, and utilizes regression analysis with multiple levels of fixed effects to compare the value-added contributions of teachers.

Teacher Incentive Fund Evaluation
Principal Investigator: Jane Hannaway with Luke C. Miller and Zeyu Xu
Funding: U.S. Department of Education through SRI International

In collaboration with SRI International and Berkeley Policy Associates, we are evaluating the progress of grantees under the federally funded Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) program, a program that seeks to support efforts and stimulate reforms to develop and implement performance-based compensation to reward highly effective teachers and principals, attract effective teachers to high-need schools and content areas, and support ongoing improvements in school and teacher effectiveness. This study promises to fill a large gap in the knowledge base on educator compensation reform in the U.S.

Making a Difference?: The Effects of Teach for America in High School
full working paper»

Principal Investigator: Jane Hannaway with Zeyu Xu
Funding: Steven L. Merrill Family Foundation

Teach for America (TFA) selects and place graduates from the most competitive colleges in the U.S. as teachers in the lowest-performing schools in the country. This paper is the first study that examines the effect of Teach for America teachers on student performance in high school. We use rich longitudinal data from North Carolina to link students to the set of end-of-course exams they took in high school and to teachers who taught each of the courses and used a cross-subject student fixed effect model to estimate the effectiveness of Teach for America relative to other teachers (including other teachers fully licensed in field).

We find that TFA teachers, on average, have a positive effect on high school student test scores relative to non-TFA teachers, including those who are certified in-field. Such effects exceed the impact of additional years of experience and are particularly strong in math and science.