Value-Added Scores Serve as Good Predictor of Teacher Quality

Although new teachers can improve quickly once they’re in the classroom, a preliminary report from the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research finds that even in the very first year, it’s possible to predict if the new instructor will prove to be a success or a failure.

A reliable way to separate effective teachers from ineffective ones early in their careers could prove to be invaluable in improving student outcomes. According to the researchers, one of the chief predictors of student success is the quality of their teachers. When using objective measures like standardized test scores, the difference is stark — as is the difference in outcomes once students leave school.

Previous research has already established that teacher effectiveness improves substantially in the first five years on the job. Now, in “Do First Impressions Matter? Improvement in Early Career Teacher Effectiveness” authors are arguing that early value-added scores could serve as predictors of teacher quality down the road.

To date, only a little is known about the dynamics of teacher performance in the first five years. The early career period represents a unique opportunity to identify struggling teachers, examine the likelihood of future improvement, and make strategic pre-tenure dismissals to improve teacher quality. In this paper, we explore how teacher value-added measures in the first two years predict future teacher performance. In service of this larger goal, we pursue a set of questions designed to provide policy makers with concrete insight into how well teacher value-added scores from the first two years of a teacher’s career would perform as an early signal of how that teacher would develop over the next five years.

The authors analyzed data provided by the New York City Department of Education to answer the question of how the value-added scores achieved in the first two years in school can be used to determine how effective teachers will be once they’re further along in their careers. More than 7,600 new teachers in mathematics and English took part in the study. All were middle-school teachers and headed classrooms of 4th- and 5th graders.

“When you look at teachers who in the future are low-performing, very few of those come from the initially highest quintile of performance, and the same is true in the opposite direction,” Ms. Atteberry said. “We see that even more at the high end: Teachers who are initially highest-performing are by far the most likely to be in the highest quintile in the future.”