Performance evaluation of teachers

From the AER:

…observable teacher characteristics like graduate education and experience are not typically correlated with increased productivity [among teachers]. Many researchers and policymakers have suggested that, under these conditions, the only way to adjust the teacher distribution for the better is to gather information on individual productivity through evaluation and then dismiss low performers. This paper offers evidence that evaluation can shift the teacher effectiveness distribution through a different mechanism: by improving teacher skill, effort, or both in ways that persist long-run.

We find that teachers are more productive during the school year when they are being evaluated, but even more productive in the years after evaluation. A student taught by a teacher after that teacher has been through the Cincinnati evaluation will score about 10 percent of a standard deviation higher in math than a similar student taught by the same teacher before the teacher was evaluated.

our estimates indicate that postevaluation improvements in performance were largest for teachers whose performance was weakest prior to evaluation, suggesting that teacher evaluation may be an effective professional development tool.

Not a surprising result but it’s always nice to have the empirics to back up your assertions.

  • Kimble

    Yeah, I also love it when the Empirics Strike Back!

  • Luc Hansen

    Golly gosh, James, I thought reputable economists always had empirics to back up their assertions.

    Oh well…silly me.

    • jamesz

      They do, but it isn’t always empirical work that directly answers the question they’re talking about. Experts are usually asked about matters that require some judgment and inference because those are the interesting questions. They’re more likely to be right than a layperson, but that doesn’t mean the questions are a settled matter in their profession. So I was being facile, but it has a grain of truth!

      • Luc Hansen

        As there was a grain of facile in my comment James, and thanks for your reply.

        And back from holiday, I’m actually interested in exactly what your assertions as regards the teaching fraternity are. I have cruised back a long way in your posts here and the only relevant information I could find was that you once worked for the MoE before you departed our fair shores.

        I read the paper you linked to and I was reminded of a talk by John Dybvig (remember him?) I attended where he was asked how he motivated his players. He replied that he motivated his players by teaching them skills so that when they hit the court they were ready and eager to demonstrate those skills. But our current government has all but cancelled professional development for our teachers. It seems to me that the paper you see as providing you with your empirics would support restoring and enhancing professional development for teachers.

        What do you think?

        • jamesz

          I like your sporting analogy but I haven’t looked at professional development before and don’t have a view on what should be done in NZ. This paper is interesting, but it is still only one paper in a field with a vast quantity of research so I’d be very hesitant to draw policy conclusions from it. If you think cancelling professional development was crazy then perhaps the Ministerial paper recommending the change will give you an idea of the evidence that the Ministry reviewed.

          As for my past assertions, I did a little work for MoE in NZ but a lot more for the Treasury and tertiary providers. More on the returns to education than operational policy.