Key Questions

1. To what extent do teacher effects on test scores vary across student subgroups?

2. What efficiency and equity gains could be realized by incorporating teacher effect disparities into policy decisions?


Students of different races continue to have different academic outcomes—a persistent issue across the United States, and one that contributes to an array of disparities in adult outcomes, including the racial gap in college enrollment and earnings. Teachers play an important role in improving student achievement and later-life outcomes, but there is little understanding about whether teachers have different effects on students from different racial backgrounds. A teacher who is effective with one group of students but ineffective with another could either reduce or exacerbate educational inequality. Understanding disparate impacts of teachers based on students’ race can help design policies and practices to improve the efficiency and equity of education systems.

  • School districts and school principals could incorporate teachers’ variation in effectiveness for students of different races into their policy decisions. This new measure complements typical value-added measures of teacher quality.
  • Policymakers and researchers could identify teachers who are contributing to equity—those with greater comparative advantage for Black students—to learn more about their teaching practices and characteristics.
  • District and school leaders could target professional development to teachers who are not as effective for Black students and are thus widening achievement gaps.

        ...and more. See the full research summary snapshot for details.

Key Findings

  • Teacher impacts on Black students varied widely.
  • The teachers that were more effective for Black students often were also more effective for non-Black students, but not always.
  • Race-specific value-add scores were predictive of teachers’ subsequent effects on students.
  • Experienced teachers and teachers with a master’s degree tended to be highly effective overall, but much less effective for Black than non-Black students.
  • Incorporating teachers’ revealed comparative advantage into policy decisions has the potential to increase the efficiency and equity of education systems.