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Educator labor markets
School principals are viewed as critical actors to improve student outcomes, but there remain important methodological questions about how to measure principals’ effects. We propose a framework for measuring principals’ contributions to student outcomes and apply it empirically using data from Tennessee, New York City, and Oregon. As commonly implemented, value-added models misattribute to principals changes in student performance caused by unobserved time-varying factors over which principals exert minimal control, leading to biased estimates of individual principals’ effectiveness and an overstatement of the magnitude of principal effects. Based on our framework, which better accounts for bias from time-varying factors, we find that little of the variation in student test scores or attendance is explained by persistent effectiveness differences between principals. Across contexts, the estimated standard deviation of principal value-added is roughly 0.03 student-level standard deviations in math achievement and 0.01 standard deviations in reading.
Prior research has found that economic downturns have positive effects on new teacher quality, but has not been able to determine the extent to which this relationship arises from a supply response (increased quantity or positive selection of teaching candidates) vs. a demand response (selection in hiring enabled by falling demand). In this paper, I use longitudinal data on students and teachers in Massachusetts to describe the effects of higher unemployment rates on both supply and demand for teachers. I show that students who graduate from college when unemployment rates are higher are more likely to take a teacher certification test, and that this effect is stronger among students who were higher achieving while in high school. On the demand side of the market, higher unemployment reduces new teacher hiring and the overall number of teachers employed, but I find no evidence that schools differentially employ higher achieving teaching candidates during economic downturns. While I cannot definitively rule out changes in demand-side selection, I show that much of the positive relationship between unemployment rates and teacher quality can be explained by positively selected supply. My results suggest that economic incentives impact both the quantity and the quality of new teaching candidates, with implications for attracting and retaining high-quality teachers outside of economic downturns.
While recent studies have demonstrated the potential of automated feedback to enhance teacher instruction in virtual settings, its efficacy in traditional classrooms remains unexplored. In collaboration with TeachFX, we conducted a pre-registered randomized controlled trial involving 523 Utah mathematics and science teachers to assess the impact of automated feedback in K-12 classrooms. This feedback targeted “focusing questions” – questions that probe students’ thinking by pressing for explanations and reflection. Our findings indicate that automated feedback increased teachers’ use of focusing questions by 20%. However, there was no discernible effect on other teaching practices. Qualitative interviews revealed mixed engagement with the automated feedback: some teachers noticed and appreciated the reflective insights from the feedback, while others had no knowledge of it. Teachers also expressed skepticism about the accuracy of feedback, concerns about data security, and/or noted that time constraints prevented their engagement with the feedback. Our findings highlight avenues for future work, including integrating this feedback into existing professional development activities to maximize its effect.
Practice-based teacher education has increasingly been adopted as an alternative to more traditional, conceptually-focused pedagogies, yet the field lacks causal evidence regarding the relative efficacy of these approaches. To address this issue, we randomly assigned 185 college students to one of three experimental conditions reflective of common conceptually-focused and practice-based teacher preparation pedagogies. We find significant and large positive effects of practice-based pedagogies on participants’ skills in eliciting and responding to student thinking as demonstrated through a written assessment and a short teaching episode. Our findings contribute to a developing evidence base that can assist policymakers and teacher educators in designing effective teacher preparation at scale.
Decentralized matching markets experience high rates of instability due to information frictions. This paper explores the role of these frictions in one of the most unstable markets in the United States, the labor market for first-year school teachers. We develop and estimate a dynamic model of labor mobility that considers non-pecuniary information frictions directly. We find that teachers overestimate the value of hidden amenities and their own preferences for teaching. Improving access to information improves stability by 12% and reduces between-school switching by 18%, but reduces teacher labor supply by over 5%. Compared to each tested alternative, including targeted wage premiums at hard-to-staff schools, bonuses that incentivize retention, and lowered tenure requirements, information revelation improves match quality most.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted teacher candidates’ capacity to complete licensure requirements. In response, many states temporarily reduced professional entry requirements to prevent a pandemic-induced teacher shortage. Using mixed methods, we examine the role of the emergency teaching license in Massachusetts, which provided an opportunity for individuals to enter the public school teacher workforce with only a bachelor’s degree. Our results show that emergency licenses increased the supply of teachers in two ways by: 1) providing an entry point for individuals who previously wanted to become teachers but could not meet traditional licensure requirements and 2) expanding the pool of individuals interested in the profession. Among those teachers hired with an emergency license, we find that they were substantially more ethnoracially diverse than their peers with traditional licenses, and they overwhelmingly intend to obtain permanent licensure and remain in the profession. These results suggest that rethinking initial entry requirements may be an effective policy tool to increase the supply of teachers, particularly among teachers of color.
Though Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers are pivotal to students’ academic and career outcomes, research describing CTE teachers remains scant. In this study, we use nationally-representative data to describe changes in the nation’s CTE teacher workforce during a period of significant policy changes. Today’s CTE teachers are more frequently credentialed and more racially and ethnically diverse than in the past, though still less diverse than non-CTE teachers and far less diverse than the nation’s students. Women now comprise a majority, diversifying a historically male-dominated field. CTE teachers turn over at rates similar to the general teacher workforce, though novice teachers are more likely to turn over. We conclude by recommending future avenues of CTE teacher research and policy development.
Explaining the productivity paradox—the phenomenon where an introduction of information and communication technology (ICT) does not lead to improvements in labor productivity—is difficult, as changes in technology often coincide with adjustments to working hours and substitution of labor. I conduct a cluster-randomized trial in India to investigate the effects of a program that provides teachers with continuous training and materials, encouraging them to blend their instruction with high-quality videos. Teaching hours, teacher-to-student assignments, and the curriculum are held constant. Eleven months after its launch, I document negative effects on student learning in grades 9 and 10 in mathematics, and no effects in science. I also find detrimental effects on instructional quality, instructional practices, and student perceptions and attitudes towards mathematics and science. These findings suggest adjustment costs can serve as one explanation for the paradox.
Novice teachers improve substantially in their first years on the job, but we know remarkably little about the nature of this skill development. Using data from Tennessee, we leverage a feature of the classroom observation protocol that asks school administrators to identify an item on which the teacher should focus their improvement efforts. This “area of refinement” overcomes a key measurement challenge endemic to inferring from classroom observation scores the development of specific teaching skills. We show that administrators disproportionately identify two teaching skills when observing novice teachers: classroom management and presenting content. Struggling with classroom management, in particular, is linked to high rates of novice teacher attrition. Among those who remain, we observe subsequent improvement in these skills.
We document that recent generations of elementary school teachers are significantly more effective in raising student test scores than those from earlier generations. Measuring teachers’ value-added for Black and white students separately, the improvements in teaching for Black students are significantly larger than those seen for white students. The race-specific improvements in teacher quality are driven by white teachers. Analyses of mechanisms suggest that changing teachers’ biases may be one potential channel. Our results suggest reason for optimism since these teacher quality differences should lead to improved student learning and a narrowing of the Black-white test score gap over time.