Education Policy

Spending More of the School Day in Math Class: Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity in Middle School

For students whose math skills lag expectations, public schools often increase the fraction of the school day spent on math instruction. Studying middle-school students and using regression discontinuity methods, I estimate the causal effect of requiring two math classes—one remedial, one regular—instead of just one class. Math achievement grows much faster under the requirement, 0.16-0.18 student standard deviations.

The attributes and career paths of principals: Implications for improving policy

This paper examines the attributes and career paths of New York States principals. We believe a better understanding of the attributes and career paths of principals and how these have changed over time, are the foundation for additional analysis that will inform policies for the recruitment and retention of effective school leaders. We find that many of the commonly held beliefs about principals are supported by a systematic examination of the data.

Can Teacher Evaluation Improve Teaching?

The modernization of teacher evaluation systems, an increasingly common component of school reform efforts, promises to reveal new, systematic information about the performance of individual classroom teachers. Yet while states and districts race to design new systems, most discussion of how the information might be used has focused on traditional human resource–management tasks, namely, hiring, firing, and compensation. By contrast, very little is known about how the availability of new information, or the experience of being evaluated, might change teacher effort and effectiveness.

Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness

“The Widget Effect,” a widely read 2009 report from The New Teacher Project, surveyed the teacher evaluation systems in 14 large American school districts and concluded that status quo systems provide little information on how performance differs from teacher to teacher. The memorable statistic from that report: 98 percent of teachers were evaluated as “satisfactory.” Based on such findings, many have characterized classroom observation as a hopelessly flawed approach to assessing teacher effectiveness.

Equity, excellence, elephants, and evidence

Three key themes reverberate throughout this volume. An equity and excellence theme emphasizes that the creation of high-quality learning opportunities is a core value shared by all the authors of this volume. An elephants theme (as in the poem “The Blind Men and the Elephant” by John Godfrey Saxe) reminds us that our educational system includes a multiplicity of subsystems that may or may not amount to a fully functioning and healthy elephant and needs to be understood holistically in order to make true progress.