We study the effects of various types of education and training on teacher productivity. Previous studies on the subject have been hampered by inadequate measures of teacher training and difficulties addressing the non-random selection of teachers to students and of teachers to training. We address all of these limitations by estimating models with student, teacher, and school fixed effects using an extensive database from the state of Florida. Our results suggest that teacher training generally has little influence on productivity. One exception is that content-focused teacher professional development is positively associated with productivity in middle and high school math. In addition, more experienced teachers appear more effective in teaching elementary and middle school reading. There is no evidence that either pre-service (undergraduate) training or the scholastic aptitude of teachers influences their productivity. These results call into question previous findings based on models that do not adequately control for the various forms of selection bias.We wish to thank the staff of the Florida Department of Education's K-20 Education Data Warehouse for their assistance in obtaining and interpreting the data used in this study. The views expressed is this paper are solely our own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Florida Department of Education. This research is part of a larger project assessing teacher quality being funded by grant R305M040121 from the U.S. Department of Education.
It is generally acknowledged that promoting teacher quality is a key element in improving primary and secondary education in the United States. Indeed, one of the primary goals of the No Child Left Behind law is to have a “highly qualified teacher” in every classroom. Despite decades of research, however, there is no consensus on what factors enhance teacher quality.
We focus here on the relationship between teacher productivity and teacher training, including formal pre-service university education, in-service professional development, and informal training acquired through on-the-job experience. Previous research on teacher training has yielded highly inconsistent results and has fueled a wide range of policy prescriptions. Some studies find that formal education is important and these have been interpreted as support for strengthening existing teacher preparation programs in universities1 and increased expenditures on post-college training. Equally common, however, is the finding that formal education is irrelevant, leading others to argue for the elimination of colleges of education.2
One reason for the uncertainty regarding the effects of teacher training is that all past studies have suffered from one of three methodological problems. First, it is difficult to measure productivity, especially in teaching where a student’s own ability, the influences of a student’s peers, and other characteristics of schools also affect measured outcomes. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that assignment of students and teachers to classrooms is usually not