Teacher Effects on Student Achievement and Height: A Cautionary Tale

52 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2019

See all articles by Marianne P. Bitler

Marianne P. Bitler

University of California, Davis - Departments of Economics and Agricultural Resource Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Sean Corcoran

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) - Department of Cell and Tissue Biology

Thurston Domina

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill

Emily Penner

University of California, Irvine

Date Written: November 2019

Abstract

Estimates of teacher “value-added” suggest teachers vary substantially in their ability to promote student learning. Prompted by this finding, many states and school districts have adopted value-added measures as indicators of teacher job performance. In this paper, we conduct a new test of the validity of value-added models. Using administrative student data from New York City, we apply commonly estimated value-added models to an outcome teachers cannot plausibly affect: student height. We find the standard deviation of teacher effects on height is nearly as large as that for math and reading achievement, raising obvious questions about validity. Subsequent analysis finds these “effects” are largely spurious variation (noise), rather than bias resulting from sorting on unobserved factors related to achievement. Given the difficulty of differentiating signal from noise in real-world teacher effect estimates, this paper serves as a cautionary tale for their use in practice.

Suggested Citation

Bitler, Marianne P. and Corcoran, Sean and Domina, Thurston and Penner, Emily, Teacher Effects on Student Achievement and Height: A Cautionary Tale (November 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w26480. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3492883

Marianne P. Bitler (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - Departments of Economics and Agricultural Resource Economics ( email )

United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Sean Corcoran

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) - Department of Cell and Tissue Biology ( email )

San Francisco, CA
United States

Thurston Domina

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill ( email )

102 Ridge Road
Chapel Hill, NC NC 27514
United States

Emily Penner

University of California, Irvine ( email )

P.O. Box 19556
Science Library Serials
Irvine, CA 62697-3125
United States

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