published a study on international teacher quality.just
They looked at an international sample of teacher cognitive ability (as measured by OECD’s Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies) and student achievement (as measured by PISA scores).
They found a lot of variation of teacher cognitive quality across countries.
Teachers in Finland and Japan score very well. Teachers in Italy, Russia, and Israel score poorly.
After running regressions and controls, the authors estimate that a one standard deviation increase in teacher quality leads to a .15 standard deviation in student achievement.
To put a one standard deviation increase in context, a one standard deviation bump from the mean in IQ scores is about 15 points.
I can’t think of a realistic intervention that, at scale, will lead to that kind of increase in teacher cognitive ability across the entire United States.
For me, this is just one more study that validates the idea that institutional change is the best hope we have for increasing educational opportunity.
High-performing urban charter school sectors across the United States often achieve a ~.1 standard deviation effect over the course of three to four years.
I believe we can thoughtfully grow these non-profit public schools in a manner that maintains quality at scale. I also think we can empower amazing district leaders by letting them adopt non-profit governance for their schools.
I really can’t think of a way that we increase teacher cognitive ability by one standard deviation at scale.
In every city we work in, we do invest in recruiting and supporting great teachers. Teachers should be recruited hard, paid more, and supported better.
But I’m skeptical that focusing most of our energy on improving our teacher pool is the best way to help low-income kids.
Instead, I think we should focus much of our energy on creating and expanding great public institutions where teachers can work.
Another way to say it: I don’t blame our teachers for the dysfunction that plagues many schools in cities across the United States.
It’s their employers that should be the focus of our attention.