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Teacher Effects on Student Achievement and Height: A Cautionary Tale

Author

Listed:
  • Marianne Bitler
  • Sean Corcoran
  • Thurston Domina
  • Emily Penner

Abstract

Estimates of teacher “value-added” suggest teachers vary substantially in their ability to promote student learning. Prompted by this finding, many states and school districts have adopted value-added measures as indicators of teacher job performance. In this paper, we conduct a new test of the validity of value-added models. Using administrative student data from New York City, we apply commonly estimated value-added models to an outcome teachers cannot plausibly affect: student height. We find the standard deviation of teacher effects on height is nearly as large as that for math and reading achievement, raising obvious questions about validity. Subsequent analysis finds these “effects” are largely spurious variation (noise), rather than bias resulting from sorting on unobserved factors related to achievement. Given the difficulty of differentiating signal from noise in real-world teacher effect estimates, this paper serves as a cautionary tale for their use in practice.

Suggested Citation

  • Marianne Bitler & Sean Corcoran & Thurston Domina & Emily Penner, 2019. "Teacher Effects on Student Achievement and Height: A Cautionary Tale," NBER Working Papers 26480, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26480
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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