Evaluation for Teacher Development: Exploring the Relationship between Features of Teacher Evaluation Systems and Teacher Improvement
John Papay

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Brown University

Primary Discipline

Educational Policy
This project seeks to enhance our understanding of teacher evaluation by exploring how specific features of the evaluation system, as experienced by teachers in a given school, relate to improvements in teacher effectiveness. Over the past decade, policymakers have transformed the process of evaluating teachers in our nation’s public schools, seeing educator evaluation as a central means of school improvement. There is strong evidence that rigorous evaluation systems can improve teachers’ skills and boost student achievement. However, we know little about the specific features of teacher evaluation that lead to improved teacher effectiveness. This is particularly problematic given the substantial investment in teacher evaluation reform and the vast promise for such reforms to improve teacher practice.I propose to use detailed data, including observation-level ratings and existing large-scale teacher surveys, from three statewide teacher evaluation systems to develop proxies for the quality and amount of feedback teachers receive in evaluation. I will capitalize on variation in these measures both across individual teachers and across schools to explore how these evaluation features relate to improvements in a teacher’s effectiveness over time, what the literature calls the “returns to teaching experience.” Intuitively, I seek to estimate whether teachers improve at greater rates when they experience specific features of evaluation or specific evaluation contexts, such as being in a school where evaluators provide teachers with more differentiated feedback about performance. Understanding better the relationship between teacher evaluation and improvement is of central interest not only to the research community, where attention to such questions is growing, but also to policymakers, including those in the states I propose to study.
About John Papay
John Papay is an Assistant Professor of Education and Economics at Brown University. His research focuses on teacher policy, the economics of education, and teacher labor markets. He has published on teacher evaluation, teacher working conditions, teacher compensation, school improvement, high-stakes testing, and program evaluation methodology. His current work examines the conditions that support or constrain teacher professional growth. He is a former Spencer Dissertation Fellow and has won the 2014 AERA Palmer O. Johnson award (with Matthew Kraft), the AEFP 2016 Early Career Award, and Brown University’s 2016 Wriston Fellowship for junior faculty excellence in teaching and scholarship. He is a Research Affiliate with the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers at Harvard University. A former high school history teacher, he earned his doctorate in Quantitative Policy Analysis from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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