Teacher Effects beyond the Test

Though many studies have shown that teachers have large effects on student achievement, we know little about the degree to which teachers affect a broader set of student outcomes. Using data from six large school districts, Matthew A. Kraft (Brown University) estimated how teachers affect a range of student skills and competencies beyond those measured by multiple-choice tests.

He looked at additional assessments and questionnaires for more than 4,000 U.S. fourth- and fifth-grade students and their teachers. He found that teachers have large impacts on students’ performance on complex open-ended tasks in math and reading. The questionnaires also revealed impacts on students’ attitudes toward learning, including their growth mindset, effort in class, and grit—a measure of perseverance towards long-term goals.

At the same time, individual teachers vary considerably in which student outcomes they are most effective at developing. More than one out of every four teachers who is in the top 25 percent of teacher effectiveness based on standardized test scores is in the bottom 25 percent based on social-emotional outcomes. Teachers can be effective at developing grit, problem-solving skills, and a growth mindset, while struggling to raise ELA scores, and vice versa.

Our understanding of teacher effectiveness and the multiple measures used in new teacher evaluation systems fail to capture the full range of ways in which teachers affect students’ success in school and life. “Going forward, we need to develop teacher training and evaluation systems that recognize and support the multiple ways in which teachers influence students’ development,” says Kraft.

Read the full study in the Journal of Human Resources: “Teacher Effects on Complex Cognitive Skills and Social-Emotional Competencies,” by Matthew A. Kraft.


The research was supported by the William T. Grant Foundation and the Brown University Undergraduate Training and Research Award program.

Matthew Kraft is an assistant professor of education and economics at Brown University. You can read about his research at www.matthewakraft.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewAKraft.


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