Willliam Sander, a professor of economics at DePaul University, initiated the study, inviting participation by Daniel Aaronson and Lisa Barrow, senior economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Aaronson says the Fed is interested in educational research because improving schools helps long-term economic growth.

Key findings

Some teachers are more effective than others at raising math achievement, as measured by standardized tests. A teacher’s effectiveness has little to do with his or her own education and experience.


The researchers say the findings call into question the standard practice of paying teachers more for additional degrees and years of teaching.

Who was studied

The study focused on freshman-level math teachers (a total of 650) and their students (53,000) during three school years—1996-97, 1997-98 and 1998-99.

What was studied

Researchers calculated the difference between students’ 8th-grade and 9th-grade math test scores and then calculated a growth average for each teacher’s classes in each of the three years. To make fair comparisons, researchers factored out differences among students (such as prior achievement and poverty) and among classes (such as whether they were honors or remedial). They also factored out differences among schools that might be due to leadership, safety or the like. Finally, the researchers looked for patterns between average growth and teacher characteristics.

For more information

The study, “Teachers and Student Achievement in the Chicago Public High Schools,” can be found online at

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