Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job

Douglas O. Staiger,
Douglas O. Staiger John French Professor of Economics
Robert Gordon, and
Robert Gordon Headshot
Robert Gordon Former Brookings Expert, Stanley G. Harris Professor - Northwestern University, Former Executive Associate Director - U.S. Office of Management and Budget
Thomas J. Kane
Thomas J. Kane Walter H. Gale Professor of Education and Economics - Harvard University

April 1, 2006


Traditionally, policymakers have attempted to improve the quality of the teaching force by raising minimum credentials for entering teachers. Recent research, however, suggests that such paper qualifications have little predictive power in identifying effective teachers. We propose federal support to help states measure the effectiveness of individual teachers—based on their impact on student achievement, subjective evaluations by principals and peers, and parental evaluations. States would be given considerable discretion to develop their own measures, as long as student achievement impacts (using so-called “value-added” measures) are a key component. The federal government would pay for bonuses to highly rated teachers willing to teach in high-poverty schools. In return for federal support, schools would not be able to offer tenure to new teachers who receive poor evaluations during their first two years on the job without obtaining district approval and informing parents in the schools. States would open further the door to teaching for those who lack traditional certification but can demonstrate success on the job. This approach would facilitate entry into teaching by those pursuing other careers. The new measures of teacher performance would also provide key data for teachers and schools to use in their efforts to improve their performance.