Teacher Characteristics and Gains in Student Achievement: Estimation Using Micro-Data

Eric A. Hanushek
Published Date: 
May 1971
American Economic Review
pp. 280-288

Recent attention to education in the United States represents the merger of concern about efficiency of the educational system and concern about the distribution of educational services, particularly along racial and ethnic lines. However, there is very little guidance on how to satisfy any efficiency or distributional goals through public policy because extremely little is known about the relationship between inputs -- particularly inputs available for public policy -- and outputs of the educational process. Educational research has been slow in providing definitive answers to public policy questions for several understandable reasons: the subject of the educational process is extremely complex, especially as regards the physiological and psychological aspects; any theoretical development of a learning theory amenable to analysis for policy purposes is absent; and the required data traditionally have not been collected. previous analyses have yielded some suggestive beginnings, and have provided insights into how the analysis should proceed. This analysis represents a next step of statistical inquiry into the educational process from a public policy point of view. Three fundamental policy questions are addressed: (1) do teachers count? (2) are schools operated efficiently now? (3) what characteristics of teachers and classrooms are important? Past studies have given ambiguous answers to these questions, largely due to inadequate data. Specifically, no data set which supplies accurate historical information on educational inputs at an individual level has been available. This study attempts to provide more conclusive answers by remedying the most glaring data problems for a set of students (third graders) in one school district.