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Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement

By Eric A. Hanushek, John F. Kain and Steven G. Rivkin


Considerable controversy surrounds the impact of schools and teachers on the achievement of students. This paper disentangles the separate factors influencing achievement with special attention given to the role of teacher differences and other aspects of schools. Unique matched panel data from the Harvard/UTD Texas Schools Project permit distinguishing between total effects and the impact of specific, measured components of teachers and schools. While schools are seen to have powerful effects on achievement differences, these effects appear to derive most importantly from variations in teacher quality. A lower bound suggests that variations in teacher quality account for at least 7« percent of the total variation in student achievement, and there are reasons to believe that the true percentage is considerably larger. The subsequent analysis estimates educational production functions based on models of achievement growth with individual fixed effects. It identifies a few systematic factors a negative impact of initial years of teaching and a positive effect of smaller class sizes for low income children in earlier grades but these effects are very small relative to the effects of overall teacher quality differences.

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