Three Ways Research Has Changed Education Policy

Research has played an influential role in shifting U.S. federal education policy, resulting in three fundamental changes. Jane Hannaway, AIR vice president and the director of the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER), identified these changes in the keynote address at an international conference on education:

AIR/CALDER Researchers in RomePictured (L to R): David Figlio, Jacob Vigdor, Jane Hannaway, Michael Hansen, Helen Ladd, Zeyu Xu“The first shifted the unit of accountability from schools to teachers. The second shifted teacher policy from input to output. The third shifted accountability based on student academic performance levels to accountability based on student academic gains,” said Hannaway.

Hannaway argued that these shifts are informed by three key highly replicated research findings: “1) Teachers are the most important school factor influencing student performance; 2) the variation in productivity among teachers is large, and 3) the variation in teacher effectiveness within school is at least as large as the variation between schools." Hannaway also addressed the concerns about how schools and teachers respond to accountability pressure and how to make teacher evaluation measures fair and reliable.

AIR/CALDER researchers Michael Hansen and Zeyu Xu—along with CALDER researchers from our partner universities, including Rodney Andrews of University of Texas at Dallas, David Figlio of Northwestern University and Jacob Vigdor of Duke University—presented papers at the conference, “Improving Education Through Accountability and Evaluation: Lessons from Around the World,” held October 3-5, 2012 in Rome, Italy. The conference was hosted by the Italian National Institute for Educational Evaluation (INVALSI) in partnership with the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM), AIR, and the University of Maryland School of Public Policy.

The conference is a part of an effort to encourage international education research collaboration. Helen Ladd, a CALDER Researcher from Duke University, also gave a keynote speech entitled, “School Accountability and Monitoring Systems: Insights from the U.S. and Other Countries.”

Researchers from the conference met again at the APPAM meetings this month to pursue avenues for greater international exchange and collaboration.