Welcome to the Profit of Education website. Continuing the conversation begun in the book Profit of Education, we discuss the latest economic evidence on education reform.

Guess who doesn’t get the good teachers

Would it shock you to hear that low-income students/minority students/lower-achieving students all get given weaker teachers on average? Probably not.

Dan Goldhaber and team have put together data documenting how the issues. (The data is for Washington State, but I expect the facts aren’t terribly different elsewhere.)

The overall result is depressingly as expected. What Goldhaber and coauthors add is two facts. First, it doesn’t matter whether you measure teacher quality by inputs or outputs. Second, the inequity exists in the distribution of teacher quality across districts and across schools within districts and across classes within schools.

Of course many disadvantaged students do get good teachers and some better-off students don’t. To take one example from the paper, under-represented minority (black/Hispanic/native American) fourth graders are about 4o percent more likely to get an inexperienced teacher than are other students. For this particular measure, most of the difference is between districts and relatively little comes about by classroom assignments within a school.

The authors also find that students on free-or-reduced lunch (FRL) get teachers who on average have one year less experience. In general, a year of experience is a big deal for new teachers but not so important once a teacher has a few years under her belt. In the chart below, taken from the authors’ paper, compare the blue line to the red line (students not on FRL to FRL students). At the high-experience end blue is higher than red, and vice versa at the low-experience end. What I find particularly interesting is that the gap at the high-experience end is relatively small. The big gap is at the novice end.

Teacher experience and FRL

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