Disentangling Disadvantage: Can We Distinguish Good Teaching from Classroom Composition?

47 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2014

See all articles by Gema Zamarro

Gema Zamarro

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform; Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR)

John Engberg

RAND Corporation

Juan Saavedra

University of Southern California - Department of Economics; Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR)

Jennifer L. Steele

American University

Date Written: January 1, 2014

Abstract

This paper focuses on the use of teacher value-added estimates to assess the distribution of effective teaching across students of varying socioeconomic disadvantage. We use simulation methods to examine the extent to which different commonly used teacher-value added estimators accurately capture both the rank correlation between true and estimated teacher effects and the distribution of effective teaching across student characteristics in the presence of classroom composition effects. Varying the amount of teacher sorting by student characteristics, the within-teacher variability in classroom composition, and the amount of student learning decay, we compare aggregated residuals, teacher random effects, and teacher fixed effects models estimated in both levels and gains, with and without controls for classroom composition. We find that models estimated in levels more accurately capture the rank correlation between true and estimated teacher effects than models estimated in gains, but levels are not always preferable for recovering the correlation between teacher value-added and student achievement. For recovering that correlation, aggregated residuals models appear preferable when sorting is not present, though fixed effects models perform better in the presence of sorting. Because the true amount of sorting is never known, we recommend that analysts incorporate contextual information into their decisions about model choice.

Keywords: value-added models, Monte Carlo simulation, teacher quality, classroom composition

JEL Classification: I24, C01, I29

Suggested Citation

Zamarro, Gema and Engberg, John B. and Saavedra, Juan and Steele, Jennifer L., Disentangling Disadvantage: Can We Distinguish Good Teaching from Classroom Composition? (January 1, 2014). CESR-Schaeffer Working Paper No. 2014-001. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2378528 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2378528

Gema Zamarro (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform ( email )

201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR) ( email )

635 Downey Way
Los Angeles, CA 90089-3332
United States

HOME PAGE: http://works.bepress.com/gema_zamarro/

John B. Engberg

RAND Corporation ( email )

1776 Main Street
P.O. Box 2138
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
United States
412 683 2300 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.rand.org

Juan Saavedra

University of Southern California - Department of Economics ( email )

3620 South Vermont Ave. Kaprielian (KAP) Hall, 300
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR)

635 Downey Way
Los Angeles, CA 90089-3332
United States

Jennifer L. Steele

American University ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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