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Searching for Effective Teachers with Imperfect Information

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  • Douglas O. Staiger
  • Jonah E. Rockoff

Abstract

Over the past four decades, empirical researchers -- many of them economists -- have accumulated an impressive amount of evidence on teachers. In this paper, we ask what the existing evidence implies for how school leaders might recruit, evaluate, and retain teachers. We begin by summarizing the evidence on five key points, referring to existing work and to evidence we have accumulated from our research with the nation's two largest school districts: Los Angeles and New York City. First, teachers display considerable heterogeneity in their effects on student achievement gains. Second, estimates of teacher effectiveness based on student achievement data are noisy measures. Third, teachers' effectiveness rises rapidly in the first year or two of their teaching careers but then quickly levels out. Fourth, the primary cost of teacher turnover is not the direct cost of hiring and firing, but rather is the loss to students who will be taught by a novice teacher rather than one with several years of experience. Fifth, it is difficult to identify at the time of hire those teachers who will prove more effective. As a result, better teachers can only be identified after some evidence on their actual job performance has accumulated. We then explore what these facts imply for how principals and school districts should act, using a simple model in which schools must search for teachers using noisy signals of teacher effectiveness. The implications of our analysis are strikingly different from current practice. Rather than screening at the time of hire, the evidence on heterogeneity of teacher performance suggests a better strategy would be identifying large differences between teachers by observing the first few years of teaching performance and retaining only the highest-performing teachers.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.24.3.97
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 24 (2010)
Issue (Month): 3 (Summer)
Pages: 97-118

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:24:y:2010:i:3:p:97-118

Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.24.3.97
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References

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  1. Petra E. Todd & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 2003. "On The Specification and Estimation of The Production Function for Cognitive Achievement," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages F3-F33, February.
  2. Atila Abdulkadiroğlu & Joshua D. Angrist & Susan M. Dynarski & Thomas J. Kane & Parag A. Pathak, 2011. "Accountability and Flexibility in Public Schools: Evidence from Boston's Charters And Pilots," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 699-748.
  3. Jonah E. Rockoff, 2004. "The Impact of Individual Teachers on Student Achievement: Evidence from Panel Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 247-252, May.
  4. Tahir Andrabi & Jishnu Das & Asim Ijaz Khwaja & Tristan Zajonc, 2011. "Do Value-Added Estimates Add Value? Accounting for Learning Dynamics," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 29-54, July.
  5. John H. Tyler & Eric S. Taylor & Thomas J. Kane & Amy L. Wooten, 2010. "Using Student Performance Data to Identify Effective Classroom Practices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 256-60, May.
  6. Koedel, Cory, 2009. "An empirical analysis of teacher spillover effects in secondary school," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 28(6), pages 682-692, December.
  7. Jesse Rothstein, 2010. "Teacher Quality in Educational Production: Tracking, Decay, and Student Achievement," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 125(1), pages 175-214, February.
  8. C. Kirabo Jackson, 2013. "Match Quality, Worker Productivity, and Worker Mobility: Direct Evidence from Teachers," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(4), pages 1096-1116, October.
  9. Caroline M. Hoxby & Sonali Murarka, 2009. "Charter Schools in New York City: Who Enrolls and How They Affect Their Students' Achievement," NBER Working Papers 14852, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Charles T. Clotfelter & Helen F. Ladd & Jacob L. Vigdor, 2006. "Teacher-Student Matching and the Assessment of Teacher Effectiveness," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(4).
  11. Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2002. "The Promise and Pitfalls of Using Imprecise School Accountability Measures," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 16(4), pages 91-114, Fall.
  12. Daniel Aaronson & Lisa Barrow & William Sander, 2002. "Teachers and student achievement in the Chicago public high schools," Working Paper Series, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago WP-02-28, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  13. Ballou, Dale, 1996. "Do Public Schools Hire the Best Applicants?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 111(1), pages 97-133, February.
  14. Hanushek, Eric, 1971. "Teacher Characteristics and Gains in Student Achievement: Estimation Using Micro Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 61(2), pages 280-88, May.
  15. Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2008. "Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student Achievement: An Experimental Evaluation," NBER Working Papers 14607, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1979. "Job Matching and the Theory of Turnover," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 972-90, October.
  17. Hanushek, Eric A, 1986. "The Economics of Schooling: Production and Efficiency in Public Schools," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 24(3), pages 1141-77, September.
  18. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2008. "Can Principals Identify Effective Teachers? Evidence on Subjective Performance Evaluation in Education," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26, pages 101-136.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Esther Duflo & Pascaline Dupas & Michael Kremer, 2012. "School Governance, Teacher Incentives, and Pupil-Teacher Ratios: Experimental Evidence from Kenyan Primary Schools," NBER Working Papers 17939, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Koedel Cory & Leatherman Rebecca & Parsons Eric, 2012. "Test Measurement Error and Inference from Value-Added Models," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 12(1), pages 1-37, November.
  3. Hanushek, Eric A., 2011. "The economic value of higher teacher quality," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 466-479, June.
  4. Cory Koedel & Jiaxi Li, 2014. "The Efficiency Implications of Using Proportional Evaluations to Shape the Teaching Workforce," Working Papers, Department of Economics, University of Missouri 1402, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
  5. Jesse Rothstein, 2012. "Teacher Quality Policy When Supply Matters," NBER Working Papers 18419, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Cory Koedel & Mark Ehlert & Michael Podgursky & Eric Parsons, 2012. "Teacher Preparation Programs and Teacher Quality: Are There Real Differences Across Programs?," Working Papers, Department of Economics, University of Missouri 1204, Department of Economics, University of Missouri, revised 13 Jul 2012.
  7. Jonah E. Rockoff & Douglas O. Staiger & Thomas J. Kane & Eric S. Taylor, 2012. "Information and Employee Evaluation: Evidence from a Randomized Intervention in Public Schools," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 102(7), pages 3184-3213, December.
  8. Santiago Levy & Norbert Schady, 2013. "Latin America's Social Policy Challenge: Education, Social Insurance, Redistribution," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 193-218, Spring.
  9. Marc van der Steeg & Sander Gerritsen, 2013. "Teacher evaluations and pupil achievement: Evidence from classroom observations," CPB Discussion Paper 230, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.

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