Teacher Quality Topics
Teacher Quality and Compensation
With calls for higher-quality teachers and heightened educational accountability, the training and preparation of teachers are increasingly important. Our large-scale studies of teacher effectiveness reflect issues at the center of current debates about how to improve the American education system.
Mathematica evaluated Teach For America (TFA), a program that recruits recent graduates from some of the nation’s best colleges for two-year teaching commitments in hard-to-staff schools in low-income communities. The study, one of the first to use random assignment of students to schools, found that students of TFA teachers made stronger gains in math than students of other teachers, while holding their own in reading.
Mathematica evaluated the contribution of different teacher preparation methods to students’ academic achievement. In recent years, alternative certification programs have expanded rapidly, offering increasingly popular pathways to teaching that differ from traditional programs. Mathematica is evaluating the impact of alternative routes to teaching in two studies. The first, Passport to Teaching, funded by the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, provides alternative certification through a portable credential based on teacher exams. The second study of teacher preparation models that enable teachers to get into the classroom before they finish all certification requirements found that students with an alternatively certified teacher did no worse on achievement tests than students whose teacher came through the traditional route.
Comprehensive teacher induction is an expensive but important strategy schools and districts use to retain and support beginning teachers. Mathematica is conducting the largest ever randomized controlled trial of comprehensive induction to understand the impacts it has on teacher retention and performance, finding that, in the first year, more-intensive teacher induction has no impact, and the prevailing services are just as effective. The programs under study provide novice teachers with full-time mentors; a curriculum of intensive and structured support that includes orientation, professional development, and weekly meetings with mentors; opportunities to observe experienced teachers; formative assessment tools that permit ongoing evaluation of practice and constructive feedback; and outreach to school-based administrators.
Districts and schools want to identify their most effective teachers to reward and retain them and enlist their help in supporting other teachers. Mathematica is using value-added models, experiments, and classroom observations to help recognize high-performing teachers. For the District of Columbia Public Schools, Memphis Public Schools, and a large group of charter schools, we are developing and implementing value-added models to measure school and teacher effectiveness. These models measure students’ year-to-year gains in academic achievement controlling for other factors. In order to capture the benefits of teacher collaboration, Mathematica estimates teacher effectiveness both at the individual-level and at the group-level, where groups are defined as all teachers in a given school or a given grade and subject within a school.
The Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) aims to retain effective teachers by offering opportunities to earn higher salaries and career advancement without leaving the classroom. Under this model, teacher pay and advancement are tied to student achievement growth, observed performance in the classroom, and qualification in high-demand subjects. Mathematica is conducting a five-year impact evaluation of TAP as implemented in the Chicago Public Schools. This study is the first to assess the impact of a TAP using random assignment.
We also evaluated the Missouri Career Ladder Program. This initiative provides opportunities for teachers to qualify for additional pay through a combination of performance and additional duties, such as mentoring or tutoring. Policymakers hope this improves academic services, programs, and student learning outcomes, in part by attracting and retaining effective teachers.
In addition, Mathematica is conducting a five-year study to determine whether children in low-performing schools can benefit from high-performing teachers transferring to their schools. The Talent Transfer Initiative offers teachers $20,000 to transfer to the lowest-performing schools in their districts.
Without better information on how to improve student achievement, many educators and policymakers feel that increased pay incentives may not be sufficient to drive improvement. Mathematica’s study of the Effective Practice Incentive Community (EPIC), developed by New Leaders for New Schools, is helping the highest performing teachers in the highest performing schools to identify practices that may contribute to student achievement.