Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement

Authors

  • Steven G. Rivkin,

    1. 1 Dept. of Economics, Amherst College, Amherst, MA 01002, U.S.A.; sgrivkin@amherst.edu, 2Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, U.S.A.; hanushek@stanford.edu; http://www.hanushek.net
      and 3University of Texas at Dallas (deceased).
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  • 1 Eric A. Hanushek,

    1. 1 Dept. of Economics, Amherst College, Amherst, MA 01002, U.S.A.; sgrivkin@amherst.edu, 2Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, U.S.A.; hanushek@stanford.edu; http://www.hanushek.net
      and 3University of Texas at Dallas (deceased).
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  • and 2 John F. Kain 3 *

    1. 1 Dept. of Economics, Amherst College, Amherst, MA 01002, U.S.A.; sgrivkin@amherst.edu, 2Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, U.S.A.; hanushek@stanford.edu; http://www.hanushek.net
      and 3University of Texas at Dallas (deceased).
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    • While John Kain participated fully in this project, he sadly died before its publication. We are grateful to Kraig Singleton, Jaison George, and Dan O'Brien for excellent research assistance, and we thank Eric French, Caroline Hoxby, Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, Finis Welch, Geoffrey Woglom, and a co-editor, along with seminar participants at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC San Diego, the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Public Policy Research Institute, Stanford University, University of Texas, and Texas A&M University for their many helpful comments. The arguments and estimation were considerably strengthened by the comments of anonymous referees. Hanushek and Rivkin thank the Donner Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Packard Humanities Institute for funding, and Kain thanks the Smith-Richardson Foundation and the Spencer Foundation.


Abstract

This paper disentangles the impact of schools and teachers in influencing achievement with special attention given to the potential problems of omitted or mismeasured variables and of student and school selection. Unique matched panel data from the UTD Texas Schools Project permit the identification of teacher quality based on student performance along with the impact of specific, measured components of teachers and schools. Semiparametric lower bound estimates of the variance in teacher quality based entirely on within-school heterogeneity indicate that teachers have powerful effects on reading and mathematics achievement, though little of the variation in teacher quality is explained by observable characteristics such as education or experience. The results suggest that the effects of a costly ten student reduction in class size are smaller than the benefit of moving one standard deviation up the teacher quality distribution, highlighting the importance of teacher effectiveness in the determination of school quality.

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