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Searching for Effective Teachers with Imperfect Information

  • Douglas O. Staiger
  • Jonah E. Rockoff

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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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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  1. 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.
  2. Cory Koedel, 2008. "An Empirical Analysis of Teacher Spillover Effects in Secondary School," Working Papers 0808, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
  3. Jesse Rothstein, 2010. "Teacher Quality in Educational Production: Tracking, Decay, and Student Achievement," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(1), pages 175-214, February.
  4. Jonah E. Rockoff, 2004. "The Impact of Individual Teachers on Student Achievement: Evidence from Panel Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 247-252, May.
  5. Daniel Aaronson & Lisa Barrow & William Sander, 2007. "Teachers and Student Achievement in the Chicago Public High Schools," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 95-135.
  6. 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.
  7. 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, vol. 26, pages 101-136.
  8. Andrabi, Tahir & Das, Jishnu & Khwaja, Asim Ijaz & Zajonc, Tristan, 2009. "Do Value-Added Estimates Add Value? Accounting for Learning Dynamics," Working Paper Series rwp09-034, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  9. 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.
  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. Sass, Tim R. & Semykina, Anastasia & Harris, Douglas N., 2014. "Value-added models and the measurement of teacher productivity," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 9-23.
  12. Atila Abdulkadiroglu & Joshua Angrist & Susan Dynarski & Thomas J. Kane & Parag Pathak, 2009. "Accountability and Flexibility in Public Schools: Evidence from Boston's Charters and Pilots," NBER Working Papers 15549, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. 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, vol. 100(2), pages 256-60, May.
  14. Petra E. Todd & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 2003. "On The Specification and Estimation of The Production Function for Cognitive Achievement," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages F3-F33, February.
  15. Paul T. Decker & Daniel P. Mayer & Steven Glazerman, 2004. "The Effects of Teach For America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation," Mathematica Policy Research Reports c8b5eb6d499c465c86a96bee4, Mathematica Policy Research.
  16. 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.
  17. Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2002. "The Promise and Pitfalls of Using Imprecise School Accountability Measures," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(4), pages 91-114, Fall.
  18. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1979. "Job Matching and the Theory of Turnover," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 972-90, October.
  19. Hanushek, Eric, 1971. "Teacher Characteristics and Gains in Student Achievement: Estimation Using Micro Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(2), pages 280-88, May.
  20. Ballou, Dale, 1996. "Do Public Schools Hire the Best Applicants?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(1), pages 97-133, February.
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