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Do High School Teachers Really Matter? (WP-12-09)

Kirabo Jackson

Unlike in elementary schools, high school teacher effects may be confounded with unobserved track-level treatments (such as the AVID program) that are correlated with individual teachers. In this working paper, Jackson presents a strategy that exploits detailed course-taking information to credibly estimate the effects of 9th grade algebra and English teachers on test scores. He documents substantial bias due to track-specific treatments and shows that traditional tests for the existence of teacher effects are flawed. After accounting for bias, Jackson finds sizable algebra teacher effects and little evidence of English teacher effects. He finds little evidence of teacher spillovers across subjects.

Kirabo Jackson, Assistant Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, and Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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