$1.4 Million Grant Funds TSP's Study of Teacher, Principal Quality
Sept. 24, 2013
Dr. Rodney Andrews is the Texas Schools Project director and an assistant professor of economics.
Texas Schools Project director Dr. Rodney Andrews says “everybody has had an exceptional teacher, so we know that teachers matter.” But empirically proving the effects teachers have on their students is more complex.
Researchers at the Texas Schools Project (TSP), which moved to UT Dallas in 1997, were among the first to publish research on teacher quality, Andrews said. With a $1.475 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the TSP is exploring other elements of K-12 education.
In addition to research on teacher quality, the award is funding a study on how principal leadership affects student performance.
“Our research looks at the key players in K-12: the teachers who deliver, the principals and administrators who lead, and charter schools, which are another philosophy of education delivery,” said Andrews, an assistant professor of economics. “The purpose of this grant is to provide some insight into these pressing matters that anybody would agree are deserving of study.”
The five-year award began in July 2012 and was awarded to the project through the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) under the American Institutes for Research.
Data for the Long Term
Longitudinal data provided by agencies such as the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Education Agency allow the Texas Schools Project to track:
- Texas students from kindergarten through high school graduation.
- Students enrolled in colleges or universities in Texas as well as their commencement dates, majors and the paths they took to graduate.
- Earnings of individuals who work for firms that pay taxes to support unemployment insurance.
The TSP, housed under the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences (EPPS), aims to enable education research that will benefit students in Texas by bringing together individual-level administrative data from multiple state agencies and other sources of education data.
Dr. Eric Hanushek, Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, is chairman of TSP’s executive committee and the principal investigator. Andrews and Dr. Steven Rivkin, professor of economics and economics department head at the University of Illinois at Chicago, are also part of the research team.
Andrews said through the TSP, researchers with projects approved by a joint advisory board have access to more than 1 billion records of longitudinal data.
“The longitudinal data allow you to track students over time, so you can measure progress, or you can measure difficulties,” Andrews said. “You can truly discern whether or not a policy is actually helping students because the benefit certainly won’t come instantaneously. You need to be able to see what happens to students after they have been exposed to something.”
The project also seeks to improve academic achievement, increase success in postsecondary education and improve labor market outcomes of students in Texas and the nation.
“In the Dallas Independent School District, two years ago they offered teachers buyouts for early retirement. We’re curious as to how that might have affected student performance and what types of teachers would take up that offer,” Andrews said.
Although the project is not permitted to share data with the other seven states that comprise CALDER, the organization gives the entities an opportunity to share insight, Andrews said.
Dr. Denis Dean, dean of EPPS, said the researchers’ work can move education policymaking away from the realm of preconceived ideas and into a practical, results-driven framework.
“Policymakers need solid information to make sound decisions, and that sort of information has been sorely lacking,” Dean said. “Education policy debates typically boil down to reiterations of previously formed and deeply entrenched opinions. The work done by the researchers at the Texas Schools Project can change that.”