The Value of Smarter Teachers: International Evidence on Teacher Cognitive Skills and Student Performance
International differences in teacher quality are commonly hypothesized to be a key determinant of the large international student performance gaps, but lack of consistent quality measures has precluded testing this. We construct country-level measures of teacher cognitive skills using unique assessment data for 31 countries. We find substantial differences in teacher cognitive skills across countries that are strongly related to student performance. Results are supported by fixed-effects estimation exploiting within-country between-subject variation in teacher skills. A series of robustness and placebo tests indicate a systematic influence of teacher skills as distinct from overall differences among countries in the level of cognitive skills. Moreover, observed country variations in teacher cognitive skills are significantly related to differences in women’s access to high-skill occupations outside teaching and to salary premiums for teachers.
We would like to thank William Thorn, Veronica Borg, Vanessa Denis, and Francois Keslair for access to and help with the international PIAAC data. We further thank Lisa Leschnig, Guido Schwerdt, and Katarina Zigova for making their international data on central exit examinations available to us. Kirabo Jackson and three anonymous referees provided a variety of insightful comments and suggestions. We are also indebted to David Deming, Thomas Dohmen, Bernhard Enzi, Oliver Falck, Josh Goodman, Brian Jacob, Susanna Loeb, Daniel Münich, Paul Peterson, Jesse Rothstein, Johannes Schmieder, Guido Schwerdt, Dick Startz, Marty West, Ludger Woessmann, and participants at the CESifo Area Conference on the Economics of Education, the annual conference of the Verein für Socialpolitik, the RWI Research Network Conference on the “Economics of Education,” the Applied Micro Research Seminar at CERGE-EI, the annual conference of the European Economic Association, the Third International PIAAC Conference, and seminars in Konstanz and Munich for providing valuable comments. Piopiunik is indebted to the Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) at Harvard University, in particular to Paul Peterson and Antonio Wendland, for their support and hospitality during his research visit. Wiederhold is thankful for the hospitality provided by the Center for International Development at Harvard University, especially to Ricardo Hausmann, Ljubica Nedelkoska, and Frank Neffke. Wiederhold also gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Eric A. Hanushek & Marc Piopiunik & Simon Wiederhold, 2019. "The Value of Smarter Teachers," Journal of Human Resources, vol 54(4), pages 857-899. citation courtesy of