The quality of education is instrumental to the development of countries and is the root for the success of future generations. UNESCO’s EFA Global Monitoring Report illustrates the latter in this statement:
“A more educated society may translate into higher rates of innovation, higher overall productivity and faster introduction of new technology.” (UNESCO, 2004)
Whilst the global differences in educational standards are extensive, there are also severe differences in education standards on both a national level and on a local level, reflected in students’ performance. There are several factors influencing the performance, including the characteristics of the students, those of the teachers and of the school. This empirical report will focus on the influence of teachers’ characteristics on the test performances of students in the United States. The formal research question is:
“To what extent do teachers’ characteristics influence students’
test scores in math and reading?”
In-depth research about the determinants of high quality education may not only enable policy makers to improve the educational system on a national level, but also help school directors hire the right teachers, as well as help parents choose the school best fit for their children.
The data originates from a study called “Student Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR)”. The study was conducted between 1985 and 1989 in Tennessee, where researchers collected data following kids from kindergarten to third grade. (State of Tennessee Education Department, 1990) The dataset includes the math and reading results of students and information regarding teachers, students and schools. Whilst the dataset delivers informative variables to analyze, it also lacks some important information related to the teacher which would be needed to fully analyze our research question. The dataset includes 5786 observations, from 79 schools, 325 teachers and 5786 students.
To investigate the research question, this report uses total score (combined maths and reading score) as the dependent variable and analyzes the effects of independent variables such as tchexper (teacher experience, in years), tchmasters (teacher with master’s degrees, dummy variable), tchwhite (white teacher, dummy variable), small (type of class: small size (less than 17 students), dummy variable).
The researchers expect to find that the provided teachers’ characteristics (see independent variables above) only explain a small part of the variation in the performance of students. There are many omitted variables such as the background of the student (like family, friends and past experiences), the facilities and atmosphere at school, or characteristics of the teacher not included in the dataset (for instance salary, gender, motivation). Nonetheless, the variation is believed to have a statistical significance and the independent variables to have potential for positive adjustments. Consequently, policies targeted at improving teachers or the allocation resources? can have a small positive impact on students’ performance.
Resulting from this expectation, the researchers formulate the following null-hypothesis and alternative hypothesis:
H0: Teachers’ characteristics have no significant effect on students’ performance
H1: Teachers’ characteristics do have a significant effect on students’ performance
The stated hypotheses will be tested using standard Ordinary Least Squares regression. In the following part, we introduce the theory applied to the topic. The third part of this paper presents a critical observation of the sample (dataset) and describes the variables.