Summaries of the studies are provided below and are divided into the following categories: “upcoming studies,” “summary study,” “value-added studies,” “studies based on administrator interviews,” and “other studies.” Most of these studies are currently undergoing journal peer review. Click on the Download Above Paper link that follows each paper summary.

Summary study

The “Policy Validity” of Teacher Quality Measures (Harris) This report outlines a framework for understanding what research about teacher quality measures—especially recent research using “value-added” models—means for education policy. It summarizes the different functions of teacher quality measures as well as the costs of producing them. Based on this framework and the statistical evidence, it recommends how measures such as teacher education, experience and value-added should be used (or not used) as the basis for teacher certification, compensation and other policies.

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Value-Added Research
(Completed Studies)

Teacher Training, Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement (Harris & Sass)

We study the effects of various types of education and training on the ability of teachers to promote student achievement. Previous studies on the subject have been hampered by inadequate measures of teacher training and difficulties addressing the non-random selection of teachers to students and of teachers to training. We address all of these limitations by estimating models using an extensive database from the state of Florida. Our results suggest that teacher training generally has little influence on teacher value-added. One exception is that pre-service and in-service training that combines pedagogy and content is positively associated with teacher value-added in some subjects and grades. In addition, more experienced teachers appear more effective in teaching elementary and middle school reading. There is no evidence that other forms of pre-service (undergraduate) training or the scholastic aptitude of teachers influences their ability to increase student achievement. These results call into question previous findings based on models that do not adequately control for the various forms of selection bias.

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The Effects of NBPTS-Certified Teachers on Student Achievement (Harris & Sass)

In this study we consider the efficacy of a relatively new and widely accepted certification system for teachers established by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). To address the limitations in past research on the subject, we utilize a unique database covering the universe of teachers and students in Florida for a four-year span to determine the relationship between NBPTS certification and the impact of teachers on student test scores from both low-stakes and high-stakes exams. We find evidence that NBPTS certification provides a positive signal of teacher productivity in some cases, though the ability of NBPTS certification to identify high quality teachers varies considerably across subjects and grades. Effects also vary across student groups as NBPTS teachers are more effective with black students and students from low-income families. There is little evidence that the process of becoming NBPTS certified increases teacher productivity or that NBPTS-certified teachers in a school enhance the productivity of their colleagues.

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Value-Added Models and the Measurement of Teacher Quality (Harris & Sass)

The recent availability of administrative databases that track individual students and their teachers over time has lead to both a surge in research measuring teacher quality and interest in developing accountability systems for teachers. Existing studies employ a variety of empirical models, yet few studies explicitly state or test the assumptions underlying their models. Using an extensive database from the State of Florida, we test many of the central assumptions of existing models and determine the impact of alternative methods on measures of teacher quality. We find that the commonly used “restricted value-added” or “achievement-gain” model is a good approximation of the more cumbersome cumulative achievement model. Within the context of the restricted value-added model, we find it is important to control for unmeasured student, teacher and school heterogeneity. Relying on measurable characteristics of students, teachers and schools alone likely produces inconsistent estimates of the effects of teacher characteristics on student achievement. Moreover, individual-specific heterogeneity is more appropriately captured by fixed effects than by random effects; the random effects estimator yields inconsistent parameter estimates and estimates of time-invariant teacher quality that diverge significantly from the fixed effects estimator. In contrast, the exclusion of peer characteristics and class size each have relatively little effect on the estimates of teacher quality. Using aggregated grade-within-school measures of teacher characteristics produces somewhat less precise estimates of the impact of teacher professional development than do measures of the characteristics of specific teachers. Otherwise, aggregation to the grade level doesn’t have a substantial effect. These findings suggest that many models currently employed to measure the impact of teachers on student achievement are mis-specified.

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Research from Interviews

Mix and Match: What Principals Look For When Hiring Teachers and What This Means for Teacher Quality Policies (Harris, Rutledge, Ingle, & Thompson)

Principals’ preferences for teachers have important, but largely unexplored, implications for centralized educational policies aimed at improving teacher quality. Using interviews of school principals in a mid-sized Florida school district, we examine in-depth the characteristics principals prefer. We find that the principals in our study prefer teachers with a mixture of personal and professional qualities—what we call the “individual mix.” They also prefer an “organizational mix,” hiring teachers who differ from those already in the school in terms of race, gender, experience, and skills. Finally, these principals want an “organizational match” in which teachers have similar work habits and a high propensity to remain with the school over time. Several findings have immediate implications for teacher quality-related policies: (1) the principals’ frequent references to the needs of their individual schools (organizations) highlights the potential need for local control over teacher quality; and (2) the principals’ preferences were clearly influenced by policies such as school accountability, teacher certification and teacher tenure, though not always in the intended ways. These findings are significant given that principals are likely to minimally comply with centralized policies that conflict with their preferences and that principals generally play some role, and often a significant one, in teacher quality-related decisions.

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Certify, Blink, Hire: An Examination of the Process and Tools of Teacher Screening and Selection (Rutledge, Harris, Thompson, & Ingle)

This paper starts with an extensive literature review in which we compare teacher hiring with hiring in other occupations. We also present findings from a study of school principals and district administrators in a mid-sized Florida school district. Our results suggest that the screening and selection process in teaching is not much different from occupations with similar levels of job complexity. A theory emerges from the review and analysis that explains key aspects of the teacher hiring process and reliance on certain tools in teacher hiring. The theory focuses especially on the costs of various tools and processes, the types and quality of information that come from them, and the distinctive features of teaching as an occupation and schools as organizations.

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Other Studies

Models and Predictors of Teacher Effectiveness: A Review of the Literature with Lessons from (and for) Other Occupations (Harris & Rutledge)

This study compares research on the theoretical models and predictors of teacher effectiveness with those of other occupations, focusing on three specific predictors of worker effectiveness: cognitive ability, personality, and education. The comparison of the teacher and other worker studies yields a variety of ways in which research on teacher effectiveness might be improved and expanded: First, the worker literature illustrates specific theoretical models, such as job-organization fit, that complement existing models regarding the work of teachers. The potential value of extending worker models to teaching in this way is reinforced by the fact that the three teacher characteristics mentioned above predict effectiveness in similar ways among teachers and other workers. Second, by outlining multiple models of effectiveness, it is possible to identify the important dimensions on which they vary, such as the unit of analysis and the assumed roles of the individual worker in relation to the organization. Third, research on other workers highlights some ways to improve the measurement of the three predictors and teacher effectiveness, going beyond the use of student test scores. While we advocate no particular theoretical model of teacher effectiveness, these findings provide guidance for how future research might build on current knowledge.

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Upcoming Studies

The studies below will be released shortly. If you are interested in receiving an email announcement when they are released, please send an email with the appropriate paper title in the subject heading to: [email protected].

What Makes a Good Teacher and Who Can Tell? (Harris & Sass) This report focuses on the relationship between teacher value-added and principal assessments of teachers, as well as the characteristics of teachers that are associated with each of the two measures of effectiveness. The characteristics under study range from teaching skills to personality traits. The data come from a combination of administrative data and confidential interviews with school principals in a mid-sized Florida school district.


What Makes a Good Teacher? A Mixed Methods Analysis (Harris, Rutledge, & Ingle) Using the same data as above, this study identifies the most and least effective teachers and then analyses the differences between the two groups in terms of the open-ended comments about the respective teacher groups made by their school principals. This study also examines the possibility that there are different types of good teachers each of which has a particular “mixture” of qualities. (See also the “Mix and Match” report below.)