You are here
UTeach is a well-known, university-based program designed to increase the number of high-quality STEM teachers in the workforce. Despite substantial investment and rapid program diffusion, there is little evidence about the effectiveness of UTeach graduates. Using administrative data from the state of Texas, we measure the impact of having a UTeach teacher on student test scores in math and science in middle schools and high schools. We find that students taught by UTeach teachers perform significantly better on end-of-grade tests in math and end-of-course tests in math and science by 8% to 14% of a standard deviation on the test, depending on grade and subject.
WP 173 was revised in February 2018. It was originally released in December 2016.
Citation: Benjamin Backes, Dan Goldhaber, Whitney Cade, Kate Sullivan , Melissa Dodson (2018). Can UTeach? Assessing the Relative Effectiveness of STEM Teachers. CALDER Working Paper No. Working Paper 173.
Recent evidence on teacher productivity suggests teachers meaningfully influence noncognitive student outcomes that are commonly overlooked by narrowly focusing on student test scores. These effects may show similar levels of variation across the teacher workforce and are not significantly correlated with value-added test score gains. Despite a large number of studies investigating the TFA effect on math and English achievement, little is known about nontested outcomes. Using administrative data from Miami-Dade County Public Schools, we investigate the relationship between being in a TFA classroom and non-test student outcomes. We validate our use of nontest student outcomes to assess differences in teacher productivity using the quasi-experimental teacher switching methods of Chetty, Friedman, and Rockoff (2014) and find multiple cases in which these tests reject the validity of candidate nontest outcomes. Among the cases deemed valid, we find suggestive evidence that students taught by TFA teachers in elementary and middle school were less likely to miss school due to unexcused absences and suspensions (compared to non-TFA teachers in the same school), although point estimates are very small. Other nontest outcomes were found to be valid but showed no evidence of a TFA effect.
Citation: Benjamin Backes, Michael Hansen (2015). Teach For America Impact Estimates on Nontested Student Outcomes. CALDER Working Paper No. Working Paper 146.
Teach For America (TFA) is an alternative certification program that intensively recruits and selects recent college graduates and midcareer professionals to teach in schools serving high-need students. Prior rigorous evaluations of the program have generally found positive effects of TFA teachers on students’ learning in math and science and no significant differences in reading or language arts, compared with non-TFA teachers’ effects in the same schools. No priorstudies, however, have specifically focused on TFA effects in the Atlanta region.
This report examines the efficacy of TFA teachers in the Atlanta region spanning the 2005-06 through 2013-14 school years. Using longitudinal administrative data from three major school districts with significant numbers of recent TFA placements, we generate TFA effect estimates based on two series of Georgia’s standardized tests—the end-of-grade Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs) and end-of-course tests (EOCTs).
We find evidence of a positive effect in student learning due to the hiring of TFA teachers in these three districts, compared with the performance of non-TFA colleagues in the same schools. Estimated TFA effects are positive and statistically significant in social studies and science on the state’s CRCTs, and in American literature on the state’s EOCTs. We find no significant differences in performance between TFA and non-TFA teachers in the other subjects we analyzed. Supplementary analyses show these results are not sensitive to the inclusion of data from a period of well-documented test score manipulation in Atlanta Public Schools.
Citation: Michael Hansen, Tim Sass (2015). Performance Estimates of Teach For America Teachers in Atlanta Metropolitan Area School Districts. CALDER Working Paper No. Working Paper 145.
We examine the extent to which clustering large numbers of Teach For America (TFA) corps members in a limited number of low-performing schools was accompanied by changes in teacher mobility decisions. Using longitudinal data from Miami-Dade spanning six school years, augmented with survey responses from TFA’s own Alumni Survey for cohorts placed in the Miami region, we use Cox proportional hazards models and multinomial logit decision models in a modified difference-in-difference (DD) framework. Our results suggest that the increased concentration of TFA corps members in schools was associated with a reduction in TFA mobility across schools after the first year of service, but it did not affect the overall retention of corps members in the district after the two-year commitment. In addition, we find evidence suggesting non-TFA teachers in schools with a relatively high proportion of TFA corps members were significantly more likely to leave the district. We also find that TFA corps members retained beyond the two-year commitment performed substantially better in mathematics during their first two years of teaching: evidence of positive selection into postcommitment retention. Finally, we produce steady-state estimates of the minimum TFA effects necessary for the district to prefer hiring a TFA corps member relative to a non-TFA hire. TFA corps members in the district exceed this minimum value in both reading and mathematics.
Citation: Michael Hansen, Benjamin Backes, Victoria Brady (2015). Teacher Attrition and Mobility During the Teach For America Clustering Strategy in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. CALDER Working Paper No. Working Paper 139.
A sizeable body of evidence has documented the effectiveness of Teach For America (TFA) corps members at raising the mathematics test scores of their students, though little is known about the program’s impact at the school level. TFA’s recent placement strategy in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, in which large numbers of TFA corps members are placed as clusters into a targeted set of disadvantaged schools, provides an opportunity to evaluate the impact of the TFA program on broader school performance. This study examines whether the influx of TFA corps members led to a spillover effect on other teachers’ performance. We find that many of the schools chosen to participate in the cluster strategy experienced large subsequent gains in mathematics achievement. These gains were driven in part by the composition effect of having larger numbers of effective TFA corps members. However, we do not find any evidence that the clustering strategy led to any spillover effect on schoolwide performance. In other words, our estimates suggest that the extra student gains for TFA corps members under the clustering strategy would be equivalent to gains resulting from an alternate placement strategy in which corps members were evenly distributed across schools.
Revised August 31, 2015
Citation: Michael Hansen, Benjamin Backes, Victoria Brady, Zeyu Xu (2015). Examining Spillover Effects from Teach For America Corps Members in Miami- Dade County Public Schools. CALDER Working Paper No. Working Paper 113.
This study uses detailed administrative data on teachers and students from the state of North Carolina to revisit the empirical evidence on master’s degrees, with attention to teachers at the middle and high school levels. It provides descriptive information on which types of teachers obtain master’s degrees, for which subjects, at which institutions, and during what phase of their career. The study estimates returns to master’s degrees using teacher fixed effects to control for time-invariant characteristics of teachers, thus separating the effects of teacher decisions to get an advanced degree from the effects of having one. Even with this careful attention to selection bias, we confirm the findings of prior studies showing that teachers with master’s degrees are no more effective than those without. The only consistently positive effect of attaining a master’s degree emerging from this study relates not to student test scores but rather to lower student absentee rates in middle school.
Citation: Helen Ladd, Lucy C. Sorensen (2015). Do Master’s Degrees Matter? Advanced Degrees, Career Paths, and the Effectiveness of Teachers. CALDER Working Paper No. Working Paper 136.
Most studies that have fueled alarm over the attrition and mobility rates of teachers have relied on proxy indicators of teacher quality, even though these proxies correlate only weakly with student performance. This paper examines the attrition and mobility of early-career teachers of varying quality using value-added measures of teacher performance. Unlike previous studies, this paper focuses on the variation in these effects across the effectiveness distribution. On average, more effective teachers tend to stay in their initial schools and in teaching. But the lowest performing teachers, who are generally the most likely to transfer between schools, appear to "churn" within the system, and teacher mobility appears significantly affected by student demographics and achievement levels.
Citation: Dan Goldhaber, Betheny Gross, Daniel Player (2014). Teacher Career Paths, Teacher Quality, and Persistence in the Classroom: Are Schools Keeping their Best?. CALDER Working Paper No. Working Paper 29.
We compare teacher preparation programs in Missouri based on the effectiveness of their graduates in the classroom. The differences in effectiveness between teachers from different preparation programs are very small. In fact, virtually all of the variation in teacher effectiveness comes from within-program differences between teachers. Prior research has overstated differences in teacher performance across preparation programs for several reasons, most notably because some sampling variability in the data has been incorrectly attributed to the preparation programs.
Citation: Cory Koedel, Eric Parsons, Michael Podgursky, Mark Ehlert (2012). Teacher Preparation Programs and Teacher Quality: Are There Real Differences Across Programs. CALDER Working Paper No. Working Paper 79.
With teacher quality repeatedly cited as the most important schooling factor influencing student achievement, there has been increased interest in examining the efficacy of teacher training programs. This paper presents research examining the variation between and impact that individual teacher training institutions in Washington state have on the effectiveness of teachers they train. Using administrative data linking teachers' initial endorsements to student achievement on state reading and math tests, we find the majority of teacher training programs produce teachers who are no more or less effective than teachers who trained out-of-state. However, we do find a number of cases where there are statistically significant differences between estimates of training program effects for teachers who were credentialed at various in-state programs. These findings are robust to a variety of different model specifications.
Citation: Dan Goldhaber, Stephanie Liddle (2012). The Gateway to the Profession: Assessing Teacher Preparation Programs Based on Student Achievement. CALDER Working Paper No. Working Paper 65.
Traditionally, states have required individuals complete a program of study in a university-based teacher preparation program in order to be licensed to teach. In recent years, however, various "alternative certification" programs have been developed and the number of teachers obtaining teaching certificates through routes other than completing a traditional teacher preparation program has skyrocketed. In this paper I use a rich longitudinal data base from Florida to compare the characteristics of alternatively certified teachers with their traditionally prepared colleagues. I then analyze the relative effectiveness of teachers who enter the profession through different pathways by estimating "value-added" models of student achievement. In general, alternatively certified teachers have stronger pre-service qualifications than do traditionally prepared teachers, with the least restrictive alternative attracting the most qualified perspective teachers. These differences are less pronounced when controlling for the grade level of teachers, however. On average, alternatively certified science teachers have also had much more coursework in science while in college than traditionally prepared science teachers. The same is not true for math teachers, where the hours of college coursework are approximately equal across pathways. Of the three alternative certification pathways studied, teachers who enter through the path requiring no coursework have substantially greater effects on student achievement than do either traditionally prepared teachers or alternative programs that require some formal coursework in education. These results suggest that the additional education coursework required in traditional teacher preparation programs either does little to boost the human capital of teachers or that whatever gains accrue from traditional teacher education training are offset by greater innate ability of individuals who enter teaching through routes requiring little formal training in education.
Teach for America (TFA) selects and places graduates from the most competitive colleges as teachers in the lowest-performing schools in the country. This paper is the first study that examines TFA effects in high school. We use rich longitudinal data from North Carolina and estimate TFA effects through cross-subject student and school fixed-effects models. We find that TFA teachers tend to 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.
Citation: Zeyu Xu, Jane Hannaway, Colin Taylor (2009). Making a Difference?: The Effects of Teach for America in High School. CALDER Working Paper No. Working Paper 17.
There are fierce debates over the best way to prepare teachers. Some argue that easing entry into teaching is necessary to attract strong candidates, while others argue that investing in high quality teacher preparation is the most promising approach. Most agree, however, that we lack a strong research basis for understanding how to prepare teachers. This paper is one of the first to estimate the effects of features of teachers' preparation on teachers' value-added to student test score performance in Math and English Language Arts. Our results indicate variation across preparation programs in the average effectiveness of the teachers they are supplying to New York City schools. In particular, preparation directly linked to practice appears to benefit teachers in their first year.
One of the first papers to ever estimate teacher effects at the secondary school level, this groundbreaking work presents evidence that teacher credentials affect secondary school student success in systematic ways and to a significant, policy-relevant extent. We use data on statewide end-of-course tests in North Carolina to examine the relationship between teacher credentials and student achievement at the high school level. We find compelling evidence that teacher credentials affect student achievement in systematic ways and that the magnitudes are large enough to be policy relevant. As a result, the uneven distribution of teacher credentials by race and socio-economic status of high school students- a pattern we also document- contributes to achievement gaps in high school.
Citation: Charles Clotfelter, Helen Ladd, Jacob Vigdor (2007). Teacher Credentials and Student Achievement in High School: A Cross-Subject Analysis with Student Fixed Effects. CALDER Working Paper No. Working Paper 11.
This paper explores how the distribution of teacher qualifications and student achievement in New York City have changed from 2000 through 2005 using data on teachers and students. We find: the gap between the qualifications of New York City teachers in high-poverty schools and low-poverty schools has narrowed substantially over this period, and that this gap-narrowing associated with new hires has been driven almost entirely by the substitution of teachers entering through alternative certification routes, for uncertified teachers in high-poverty schools, these changes resulted from a direct policy intervention eliminating unlicensed teachers, and perhaps most intriguing, much larger gains could result if teachers with strong teacher qualifications could be recruited.
Citation: Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, Jonah Rockoff, James Wyckoff (2007). The Narrowing Gap in New York City Teacher Qualifications and Its Implications for Student Achievement in High Poverty Schools. CALDER Working Paper No. Working Paper 10.
Using longitudinal data from the state of Florida, this study examines the effects of various types of education and training on the ability of teachers to promote student achievement. It suggests that teacher training generally has little influence on productivity. One exception is that content-focused teacher professional development is positively associated with productivity in middle and high school math. In addition, more experienced teachers appear more effective in teaching elementary and middle school reading. There is no evidence that either pre-service (undergraduate) training or the scholastic aptitude of teachers influences their ability to increase student achievement.
Citation: Douglas Harris, Tim Sass (2007). Teacher Training, Teacher Quality and Student Achievement. CALDER Working Paper No. Working Paper 3.