Mathematica study: Moving top teachers to struggling schools produces gains

10 Nov

Anne Lowrey wrote in the 2012 New York Times article, Big Study Links Good Teachers to Lasting Gain:

WASHINGTON — Elementary- and middle-school teachers who help raise their students’ standardized-test scores seem to have a wide-ranging, lasting positive effect on those students’ lives beyond academics, including lower teenage-pregnancy rates and greater college matriculation and adult earnings, according to a new study that tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years.
A study found profound effects on students whose teachers helped them raise their test scores.
The paper, by Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia, all economists, examines a larger number of students over a longer period of time with more in-depth data than many earlier studies, allowing for a deeper look at how much the quality of individual teachers matters over the long term.
“That test scores help you get more education, and that more education has an earnings effect — that makes sense to a lot of people,” said Robert H. Meyer, director of the Value-Added Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which studies teacher measurement but was not involved in this study. “This study skips the stages, and shows differences in teachers mean differences in earnings.”
The study, which the economics professors have presented to colleagues in more than a dozen seminars over the past year and plan to submit to a journal, is the largest look yet at the controversial “value-added ratings,” which measure the impact individual teachers have on student test scores. It is likely to influence the roiling national debates about the importance of quality teachers and how best to measure that quality


Executive Summary of National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 17699, December 2011
Raj Chetty, Harvard University and NBER
John N. Friedman, Harvard University and NBER
Jonah E. Rockoff, Columbia University and NBER
Executive Summary
Manuscript (NBER WP17699)
Presentation Slides

Stephen Sawchuk reported in the Education Week article, Moving Top Teachers to Struggling Schools Has Benefits:

The transfer of top elementary teachers to low-achieving schools can help boost students’ performance, but there’s a catch: getting them to agree to move.
A new study, seven years in the making, finds that elementary teachers identified as effective who transferred to low-achieving schools under a bonus-pay program helped their new students learn more, on average, than teachers in a control group did with their students. They also stayed in the schools at least as long as other new hires.
But despite a large financial reward, only 5 percent of eligible teachers made the shift, the report concludes.
“It’s a hard sell, even with $20,000 on the table,” said Steven M. Glazerman, a senior fellow at the Princeton, N.J.-based Mathematica Policy Research, the evaluation firm that conducted the study.
Education advocates have long deplored inequitable access by disadvantaged students to high-quality teaching. The federally financed study suggests there is promise in incentive programs, but highlights the logistical complexities in carrying them out, said Sarah Almy, the director of teacher quality for the Education Trust, a Washington-based group that advocates for poor and minority students.
“I think it’s a reminder of how much we still have to understand about this issue, and that it is challenging,” she said….

Here is the press release from Mathematica:

New Study: Teachers with High “Value Added” Can Boost Test Scores in Low-Performing Schools
Known to participants as the Talent Transfer Initiative, this $20,000 financial incentive for high-performing teachers to transfer to low-performing schools had positive impacts on math and reading scores.
Contact: Jennifer de Vallance, (202) 484-4692
WASHINGTON, DC—November 6, 2013. A $20,000 incentive for high-performing teachers to move to low-performing schools has helped raise the math and reading test scores of elementary students by 4 to 10 percentile points, according to a new studyconducted by Mathematica Policy Research and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Although there was no evidence of impacts in middle schools, the combined impact on elementary and middle school grade teams was positive and significant for reading by the second year after the transfer. The average cost of producing these gains in elementary and middle schools is estimated to be $7,000 cheaper than reducing class size to produce a similar effect. In elementary schools, the intervention was $13,000 cheaper per grade than the class-size reduction benchmark.
Many education policy experts have raised concerns that disadvantaged students do not have the same access to highly effective teachers as other students. To address this issue, IES sponsored an evaluation of an intervention known to study participants as the Talent Transfer Initiative (TTI). TTI offered a financial incentive to the teachers with the highest scores year after year on value-added measures (estimates of their ability to raise test scores, after accounting for differences between students) if they would transfer to a low-achieving school in the same district and remain there for at least two years.
About 22 percent of the selected teachers applied for the transfer, and 5 percent (81 teachers) ultimately transferred. These teachers filled 88 percent of the targeted teaching vacancies in low-performing schools. The results of the study include the following:
• TTI increased test scores in elementary schools, but not in middle schools. In classrooms targeted by TTI, impacts on elementary math and reading scores ranged from 10 to 25 percent of a standard deviation, depending on the subject and year. This is equivalent to increases of 4 to 10 percentile points. Impacts on elementary grade teams as a whole were positive in the second year, equal to 8 and 7 percent of a standard deviation in math and reading, respectively—or about 3 percentile points. Although there was no evidence of impacts in middle schools, the combined impact on elementary and middle school grade teams was positive and significant for reading by the second year after the transfer. Different outcomes in elementary versus middle schools could in part reflect differences between districts, which varied considerably in terms of impacts and where they offered TTI (elementary or middle schools).
• Most TTI teachers stayed on the job even after payments ended. TTI had a positive impact on teacher-retention rates during the first two years, while transfer teachers were receiving bonus payments. Ninety-three percent of TTI teachers remained in their positions during that period, versus 70 percent of traditionally hired teachers. Moreover, most (60 percent) of the teachers in the TTI group also continued to teach in the low-performing schools in their third year, after the payments ended.
• Compared with similar interventions, TTI was more cost-effective. The largest impacts were in elementary schools, where the cost savings could be as large as $13,000 per grade at a given school, compared with other interventions that can be equally effective in raising test scores, such as reducing class size. Including middle schools, where achievement impacts were not significant, and assuming that the total impacts persist into a third year, the estimated cost savings exceeded $40,000 per grade.
Steven Glazerman, study director and senior fellow at Mathematica, said, “For TTI to show positive effects, two things had to be true: first, the value-added measure had to contain some meaningful signal about future performance, and second, the teachers’ skills had to transfer to the teachers’ new settings. The fact that some teachers had positive impacts and then stayed beyond their two-year commitment suggests that selective transfer incentives may have lasting effects.”
About the Study: Sponsored by IES, this multisite randomized experiment was used to study the TTI intervention in 10 large, economically diverse school districts across seven states. The districts identified schools with the lowest test scores and singled out grade-subject teams with teaching vacancies. The researchers randomly assigned each team to either a treatment group, where the principals could interview and hire a TTI-transfer candidate eligible for $20,000, or to a control group, where the school principals filled the vacancies however they normally would. Researchers then followed the students and teachers in both the treatment and control groups for two years and compared their outcomes.
View the video, fact sheet, or full report on this study.
About Mathematica: Mathematica Policy Research, a nonpartisan research firm, provides a full range of research and data collection services, including program evaluation and policy research, survey design and data collection, research assessment and interpretation, and program performance/data management, to improve public well-being. Its clients include federal and state governments, foundations, and private-sector and international organizations. The employee-owned company, with offices in Princeton, N.J.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Cambridge, Mass.; Chicago, Ill.; Oakland, Calif.; and Washington, D.C., has conducted some of the most important studies of education, disability, health care, family support, employment, nutrition, and early childhood policies and programs.

Every child has a right to a good basic education. In order to ensure that every child has a good basic education, there must be a quality teacher in every classroom.


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