Panel Paper: Access to Effective Teaching for Disadvantaged Students in 29 School Districts

Saturday, November 9, 2013 : 2:25 PM
Georgetown I (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Eric Isenberg1, Jeffrey Max1, Phil Gleason1, Elizabeth Potamites1, Robert Santillano1, Heinrich Hock1 and Michael Hansen2, (1)Mathematica Policy Research, (2)American Institutes for Research
We document access to effective teaching for disadvantaged students within 29 school districts. The analysis is motivated in part by recent federal policy initiatives aimed at improving disadvantaged students’ access to effective teaching. For example, Race to the Top (RTT) grants funded activities for “ensuring the equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals,” and Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grants supported performance-based compensation systems for educators in high-need schools.

Federal efforts to promote the equitable distribution of effective teachers are based on concerns that disadvantaged students may not have equal access to effective teachers, contributing to sizable achievement gaps for disadvantaged students. There is evidence that the benefits to disadvantaged students from improved access to strong teachers could be substantial. Studies that estimate teachers’ value added—their contribution to student learning—consistently find considerable variation in teacher effectiveness. Given the growing understanding of the importance of teachers for student achievement and concerns about unequal access to effective teachers, there is a need for more evidence. To address this need, the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) contracted with Mathematica Policy Research to examine access to effective teaching in a diverse set of school districts nationwide over the five-year period from the 2008–2009 to the 2012–2013 school years. This report addresses the extent to which disadvantaged students have equal access to effective teaching within school districts based on the first three years of the study (2008–2009 through 2011–2011).

As in earlier studies, we focus on reading and math outcomes in grades 4 through 8, the subjects and grades for which test score data are available from the end of the current and prior school years. However, this report builds on the current evidence base in two ways:

1)      It includes districts that are diverse in terms of geography and size. We document access to effective teaching in 29 districts in 16 states and all four U.S. Census regions.

2)      We measure the extent of inequities between as well as within schools. Most of the earlier research focuses on access to effective teachers between schools, ignoring potential within-school differences between disadvantaged and nondisadvantaged students in access to effective teachers. In this study, the measures of access to effective teaching incorporate the effects of both between-school sorting of students and teachers to schools and within-school matching of teachers to students.