Ways to Improve Student Achievement

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017 2:30 PM – 4:30 PM

Hyatt Regency Chicago, Wrigley
Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Gail Hoyt, University of Kentucky

Pay by Design: Teacher Performance Pay Design and the Distribution of Student Achievement

Prashant Loyalka
,
Stanford University
Sean Sylvia
,
Renmin University of China
Chengfang Liu
,
Peking University
James Chu
,
Stanford University
Yaojiang Shi
,
Shaanxi Normal University

Abstract

We present results of a randomized trial testing alternative approaches of mapping student achievement into rewards for teachers. Teachers in 216 schools in western China were assigned to performance pay schemes where teacher performance was assessed by one of three different methods. We find that teachers offered “pay-for-percentile” incentives (Barlevy and Neal 2012) outperform teachers offered simpler schemes based on class average achievement or average gains over a school year. Moreover, pay-for-percentile incentives produced broad-based gains across students within classes. That teachers respond to relatively intricate features of incentive schemes highlights the importance of paying close attention to performance pay design.

Relative Merit-Based Scholarships in Primary Schools: Evidence From a Field Experiment in Malawi

Hyuncheol Bryant Kim
,
Cornell University
James Berry
,
Cornell University
Hyuk Harry Son
,
Yonsei University

Abstract

We study the impacts of two types of merit-based scholarships on performance of primary school students through a field experiment in Malawi. One criticism of merit-based scholarship programs is that by providing rewards to only the very top performers, lower-performing students who are unlikely to receive the incentive may not respond to the programs. An incentive design that could address this concern follows that proposed by Barlevy and Neal (2012), in which students are grouped by baseline score, and incentives are awarded to the top performers in each group. <br /><br />
We study the impacts of this “relative” merit-based scholarship program alongside a more typical “standard” merit-based scholarship program that provided scholarships to the top students in the sample. One hundred seventeen classrooms in 31 schools were randomly assigned to either the standard merit-based scholarship program, relative merit-based scholarship program, or to a control group. <br /><br />
<br /><br />
We find no evidence that either scholarship program increased test scores. In fact, the standard merit-based scholarship decreased student test scores by 0.14SD compared to the control group. This corresponds to decreased motivation to study hard, and study time, as measured in follow-up surveys. Moreover, the decreases of motivation, study time, and test scores are larger in those with lower baseline test scores, who are less likely to receive the award. The relative merit-based scholarship program had no significant impacts on student test scores, although there is little evidence of negative effects, as in the standard merit-based scholarship scheme.

Teacher Quality, Test Scores and Non-Cognitive Skills: Evidence From Primary School Teachers in the United Kingdom

Sarah Fleche
,
London School of Economics and Political Science

Abstract

Schooling can produce both cognitive and non-cognitive skills, both of which are important determinants of adult outcomes. Using very rich data from a UK birth cohort study, I estimate teacher value added (VA) models for both pupils' test scores and non-cognitive skills. I show that teachers have large effects on pupils' non-cognitive skills - above and beyond their effects on test scores. This finding extends the economics literature on teacher effects, which has primarily focused on pupils' test scores and may fail to capture teachers' overall effects. In addition, the large estimates reveal an interesting trade-off: teacher VA on pupils' test scores are weak predictors of teacher VA on non-cognitive skills, which suggests that teachers recourse to different techniques to improve pupils' cognitive and non-cognitive skills. Finally, I find that teachers' effects on pupils' non-cognitive skills have long-run impacts on adult outcomes such as higher education attendance, employment and earnings, conditional on their effects on test scores. This result indicates that long-run outcomes are improved by a combination of teachers increasing pupils' test scores and non-cognitive skills and has large policy implications.

The Effect of Teacher Pay for Performance on Adult Outcomes in the United States

Timothy N. Bond
,
Purdue University
Kevin J. Mumford
,
Purdue University

Abstract

We estimate the effect of exposure to teacher pay-for-performance programs on adult outcomes. We construct a comprehensive data set of schools which have implemented teacher performance pay programs across the United States since 1986, and use our data to calculate the fraction of students in each grade in each state who are affected by a teacher performance pay program in a given year. We then calculate the expected years of exposure for each birth state-grade cohort in the American Community Survey. Cohorts with more exposure earn lower wages as adults. This negative effect is concentrated on women and high school graduates with no significant effect for men. We find possible positive effects for high school drop outs.

Do Teacher Expectations Matter?

Nicholas Papageorge
,
Johns Hopkins University
Seth Gershenson
,
American University
Kyungmin Kang
,
Johns Hopkins University

Abstract

We develop and estimate a joint model of the education and teacher-expectation production functions that identifies both the distribution of biases in teacher expectations and the impact of those biases on student outcomes via self-fulfilling prophecies. The identification strategy leverages insights from the measurement-error literature and a unique feature of a nationally representative dataset: two teachers provided their educational expectations for each student. We provide novel, arguably causal evidence that teacher expectations affect students’ educational attainment. Estimates suggest that the elasticity of college completion with respect to teachers’ expectations is about 0.12. On average, teachers are overly optimistic about students’ ability to complete a four-year college degree. However, the degree of over-optimism of white teachers is significantly larger for white students than for black students. This highlights a nuance that is frequently overlooked in discussions of biased beliefs: unbiased (i.e., accurate) beliefs can be counterproductive if there are positive returns to optimism or if there are socio-demographic gaps in the degree of teachers’ over-optimism, both of which we find evidence of. We use the estimated model to assess the effects of two policies on black students’ college completion: hiring more black teachers and “de-biasing” white teachers so that they are similarly optimistic about black and white students.

Increased Instruction Hours and the Widening Gap in Student Performance

Mathias Huebener
,
German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin)
Susanne Kuger
,
German Institute of Economic Research
Jan Marcus
,
University of Hamburg, DIW Berlin, and CIDER

Abstract

Do increased instruction hours improve the performance of all students? Using PISA scores of students in ninth grade, we analyse the effect of a German education reform that has increased weekly instruction hours by two hours (6.5 percent) over almost five years. In the additional time, students are taught new learning content. On average, the reform improves student performance. However, treatment effects are small and differ across the student performance distribution. While low-performing students do not benefit, high-performing students benefit the most. We argue that the content of additional instruction time is an important determinant to explain this pattern. The findings demonstrate that increases in instruction hours can widen the gap between low- and high-performing students.
JEL Classifications
  • I2 - Education and Research Institutions