The Best of Us S2/E7: Quantifying Teacher Success, with Dr. Dan Goldhaber

In this episode of The Best of Us, we’re joined by Dr. Dan Goldhaber, director of University of Washington’s Center for Education Data & Research and AIR’s Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research.

Dan takes us through the hard data on predicting teacher and school success, patterns of educator improvement, and the difference that pre-service and in-service experience can make for novice teachers.

We also cover the impact of national board certification, mid-career skill plateaus, and compensation incentives across the country.

Listen now:


Early Career Improvement [00:05:28] Data point: Teachers tend to improve significantly in the first 5 to 10 years of their career, with rapid improvement early on that levels off at some point.

Variation in Teacher Progression [00:06:26] Variations in how teachers progress in their career across different schools and environments, with some experiencing rapid improvement and others reaching a plateau.

Effectiveness of Professional Development [00:09:11] The impact of professional development on teacher performance is mixed, with limited evidence that it systematically leads to improvements, especially for mid-career and experienced teachers. However, Dan asserts that targeted and well-implemented professional development can make a difference.

The importance of effective mentors [00:12:15] Effective mentors have a quantifiably positive impact on the performance of early career teachers, leading to higher effectiveness and skill levels.

Alignment between pre-service and in-service teaching experiences [00:14:48] Having a strong alignment between the experiences of pre-service student teachers and their first-year teaching placements leads to higher effectiveness, preparedness, and teacher retention.

The impact of mentor quality on teacher effectiveness [00:16:37] Working with a high-quality mentor teacher results in higher effectiveness for pre-service and early career teachers, suggesting the importance of retaining high-quality teachers and improving mentorship programs.

The process and impact of becoming nationally board certified [00:22:36] Discussion on the developmental experience of going through the national board certification process and its impact on teacher effectiveness.

The connection between national board certification and teacher retention [00:25:02] Exploration of whether becoming nationally board certified is causally connected to teachers staying in the profession.

The role of incentives in improving the teacher workforce and the impact of Race to the Top [00:30:32] Analysis of the role of incentives in teacher improvement and the perception of the Race to the Top initiative in relation to teacher evaluation and compensation reform.

The variation of impact that teachers have on student achievement [00:31:03] Discussion on the evidence of the variation in teacher impact on student achievement and the need to understand the factors contributing to this variation.

Strategic compensation and its effectiveness [00:32:32] Exploration of different types of pay for performance plans and their impact on teacher performance, highlighting the need for nuanced evaluation and considering the broader context.

The importance of a comprehensive and coherent system for teacher improvement [00:35:08] Emphasis on the need for a holistic approach to improving teachers, including coordination among different components such as compensation, evaluation, professional development, and feedback, as well as the role of politics and sustaining reform efforts.

The impact of teacher improvement [00:41:40] Discussion on the importance of comprehensive evaluation methods and feedback for teachers to connect student learning gains to their teaching practices.

Reforms in Denver and Dallas public schools [00:42:01] Mention of the research on the effectiveness of reforms in Denver and Dallas public schools in improving student achievement.

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