The Persistence of Teacher-Induced Learning Gains

Brian A. Jacob, Lars Lefgren, David Sims

NBER Working Paper No. 14065
Issued in June 2008
NBER Program(s):Children, Economics of Education, Labor Studies, Public Economics

Educational interventions are often narrowly targeted and temporary, and evaluations often focus on the short-run impacts of the intervention. Insofar as the positive effects of educational interventions fadeout over time, however, such assessments may be misleading. In this paper, we develop a simple statistical framework to empirically assess the persistence of treatment effects in education. To begin, we present a simple model of student learning that incorporates permanent as well as transitory learning gains. Using this model, we demonstrate how the parameter of interest - the persistence of a particular measurable education input - can be recovered via instrumental variables as a particular local average treatment effect. We initially motivate this strategy in the context of teacher quality, but then generalize the model to consider educational interventions more generally. Using administrative data that links students and teachers, we construct measures of teacher effectiveness and then estimate the persistence of these teacher value-added measures on student test scores. We find that teacher-induced gains in math and reading achievement quickly erode. In most cases, our point estimates suggest a one-year persistence of about one-fifth and rule out a one-year persistence rate higher than one-third.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14065

Published: Jacob, Brian, Lefgren, Lars and David Sims. (2010). "The Persistence of Teacher-Induced Learning Gains." Journal of Human Resources 45(4): 915-943.

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