Background and Purpose:
Previous research documents the income achievement gap is widening, while racial and ethnic achievement gaps, though lessening, are nevertheless persistent (e.g., Reardon, 2011). Many look to public interventions as a means to close existing achievement gaps that exist between students of different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. However, one barrier to closing gaps in achievement is the inequitable distribution of teacher quality across students.
A growing body of work indicates there are substantial inequities in teacher quality according to test-score-based â€œvalue-addedâ€ measures (VAMs) of teaching effectiveness (Goldhaber, Lavery, & Theobald, 2015; Goldhaber, Quince, & Theobald, 2018; Isenberg et al., 2013; Sass et al., 2010). Some recent studies, however, call into question this body of work and suggest the distribution of teacher quality may be more equitable than previously thought (Isenberg et al., 2016), but the findings from these studies are primarily derived from large, urban districts where the teacher labor markets may be substantially different than rural districts. The purpose of this study is to more thoroughly explore the presence of teacher quality gaps using both VAM and observational measures of teaching effectiveness and assess whether similar distributional patterns exist across the broader teaching workforce and diverse geographical contexts. More specifically, this study seeks to answer:
(1) To what extent are there gaps in teacher quality by student racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disadvantage background?
a. Do these gaps vary descriptively across urban, suburban and rural geographical settings?
b. What other district-, school-, and neighborhood-level factors predict the presence of teacher quality gaps?
Data and Methods:
The project will primarily rely on rich, longitudinal data on public school students, educators, and schools in Tennessee collected and processed under the partnership between the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) and the Tennessee Education Research Alliance (TERA) at Vanderbilt. The analysis for this study will follow the approach of Goldhaber, Lavery, & Theobald (2015) and Goldhaber, Quince, & Theobald (2018) to calculate teacher quality gaps (TQGs) in each school year, representing school-level and district-level exposure rates to high quality teachers across student racial/ethnic and socioeconomic subgroups in each year. Using a combination of descriptive data analyses and regression-based methods, we explore which observable geographic as well school and district-level factors predict variation in teacher quality gaps.
Preliminary findings show the existence of teacher quality gaps that are similar in size to those found in previous studies of other state settings (Goldhaber, Lavery, & Theobald, 2015; Goldhaber, Quince, & Theobald, 2018). Figure 1 shows the evolution of teacher quality gaps over time, both across schools within the same district and across districts. The magnitudes of gaps are consistent for different measures of disadvantage; marginalized students are between 3.5 and 6 percentage points less likely to be exposed to a high-quality teacher. Further, a little over half of these gaps are associated with differences in exposure occurring across rather than within districts.
We also find notable variation in teacher quality gaps across districts and geographic regions. Figure 2 plots the exposure rate to high quality teachers (defined as top-decile-VAM within state in previous year) for 4thâ€“8th grade students by under-represented minority status and by economically disadvantaged status for all districts in Tennessee. In about half of all districts, marginalized students are disproportionately under-exposed to high quality teachers (below the 45-degree line) while in others marginalized students are disproportionately over-exposed to high quality teachers compared to their more advantaged peers. Similar to Figure 1, Figure 3 shows the change of teacher quality gaps broken down by urbanicity. As shown, gaps tend to be larger in urban areas, slightly smaller in suburban/towns and markedly smaller in rural settings. However, we find that the smaller gaps in teacher quality in rural areas reflect less variation in teacher quality in those settings.
Contribution and Next Steps:
The results of this study would be of great benefit to education policymakers and administrators to inform whether policies designed to remedy the inequitable distribution of teacher quality across students (e.g., bonuses, in-service training) should be targeted to certain segments of the teacher workforce or applied more broadly. Though prior work documents teacher quality gaps, particularly in North Carolina, the proposed study will more thoroughly explore differences across urban and non-urban education contexts. As a set of next steps, we will explore the extent to which teacher quality gaps are related to geographic/localized economic factors versus district and school resources and characteristics using regression-based methods.
Revisiting Teacher Quality Gaps: Geographic Disparities in Access to Highly Effective Teachers Across Tennessee
Background and Purpose: