Cohort 1 - Projects

Cohort-1 Projects

The Importance of Principal Judgment: Unpacking Principals' Evaluations of Teachers Outside of Test Scores

Principals’ subjective assessments of teachers are important for policy. They frequently play a role in important personnel decisions, such as teachers' contract renewals (Goldring et al., 2014). Whereas principals' official ratings of teachers are certainly inflated, principals' low-stakes evaluations are more likely to reflect their true beliefs about teachers' performance. Principals' subjective evaluations also likely reflect principals' actual judgments of teachers' job performance across the range of duties that teachers are expected to perform, beyond just improving test scores.

Yet despite the importance of principals' evaluations of teachers, our understanding of the subjective criteria by which principals evaluate teachers is quite limited.

In this study, we use novel interview and survey data from Miami-Dade County Public Schools as well as linked teacher performance and student test score data to shed light on this issue. Specifically, we ask: What factors predict teachers' receipt of a high VAM score, coupled with a low principal job performance rating? Conversely, what factors are associated with teachers' receiving a high principal job performance rating, while simultaneously receiving a low VAM rating? This research is illuminating the criteria beyond test scores that principals use when judging (a) teachers' job performance and (b) their desirability for contract renewal.

Where are students thriving and where are students in need: Understanding the distribution of achievement across the United States

Recent work has documented substantial differences in achievement gaps across the United States. Annual data shows differences in test scores between groups for each school district. National survey data shows both achievement levels and differences between groups but only for a sample of students and schools. In this study we will describe differences in achievement across the county with a focus on the geographic concentration of low performance. We will assess the extent to which this location of low performance has changed over time and to what extent low performance is predicted by poverty, funding, economic resources, human capital resources in the area, and bureaucratic structures. We will also compare urban cores to their surrounding non-urban metropolitan areas to assess the extent to which the outcomes move together or independently. We will be driven by the following overarching research questions:

  1. In which urban (metropolitan) areas, in the United States, is low performance concentrated and how has this concentration shifted in recent years?
  2. Which students have particularly low performance within urban areas?
  3. To what extent does low performance of one group in a geographic area – as defined by urbanicity, race and poverty – predict low performance for other groups? Similarly, to what extent do achievement gaps and achievement levels move together or apart?
  4. To what extent do students’ experiences outside of school, resources for schools and political structures predict low performance?

Does Student-Teacher Race Match Impact Attendance?

Chronic absenteeism is a growing concern for policy makers. Besides the well-established correlations between low attendance and less learning, drug and alcohol use, and crime, absenteeism is among the strongest predictors of long-term outcomes such as high school dropout, net of other factors including achievement and suspensions. Recent evidence shows that while a variety of individual and family factors can lead students to miss school, within-school factors such as supportive and engaging teachers can have big impacts on reducing student absences. However, it is not clear why certain teachers are more effective than others in keeping students at school. At the same time, there is a growing literature documenting the match between student and teacher’s race can affect student short-term achievement as well as long-term educational attainment, primarily through role-model effects. Thus, it is likely that race match might also play a role in student attendance. This project sets out to answer whether student-teacher race match affect student class absences at the secondary school level.

  • What, if any, are the racial disparities in attendance within the district we study?
  • How does being assigned a teacher of the same race affect rates of attendance?
  • Do such associations vary between race/ethnicities?