Year of Publication

2008

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Graduate School

Department

Public Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Eugenia F. Toma

Second Advisor

Wendell H. Ford

Abstract

After nearly a century of research, scholars are still unable to concretely define the personal and professional characteristics that predict effective teachers. This dissertation contributes to the research base by using a unique dataset that allows the estimation of unbiased effects of teacher characteristics and preparation program on student gains. These estimates provide new evidence that, with quality data, teacher characteristics can predict student gains.

The effects of teacher characteristics on student gains are analyzed using data from a Kentucky school district that links teachers to individual students over time. A series of fixed- and between-effects models are used to arrive at unbiased estimates of GPA, math content hours, and math education hours. A similar model is used to estimate the effects of teacher preparation programs on student gains. Results from the empirical models suggest that teachers’ overall GPA is highly predictive of students’ academic gains, although the effects decline as teachers gain experience. The positive effect of math content hours is noteworthy because it does not decrease over time, suggesting the importance of gaining content knowledge during teacher preparation. The data do not permit conclusive results to be drawn regarding the impact of specific teacher preparation programs on student gains, although additional data are being collected in the district that will allow the successful completion of this study in the future.

A nationally representative dataset is used to analyze the effects of school workplace conditions on teacher turnover. Results from the logit and multinomial logit models suggest that workplace conditions affect the transition decisions of teachers who switch schools, but not those of teachers who leave the workforce entirely.

The findings of this dissertation inform ongoing policy debates that are relevant to stakeholders at all levels of the educational system. The empirical chapter on teacher turnover focused on policy levers that can be influenced at a more local level – workplace conditions. This study also informs the policy debate on pathways to teacher certification.The results of the teacher characteristics demonstrate the value of both content and pedagogical knowledge on student gains.

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