Do school and teacher characteristics matter? Evidence from the 2006 Economics National Assessment of Educational Progress

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University of Delaware
I examine the effect of teacher- and school-level characteristics on the economic achievement of U.S. high school students, where the measure of economic achievement is test scores on the 2006 Economics National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). The NAEP is the first nationally-representative assessment of what U.S. students know about economics. I use student-, teacher-, and school-level data to estimate linear regression and logit models of economic achievement, plus models that incorporate corrections for selection bias and school-level fixed effects. I find that several school and teacher characteristics have a positive impact on economic achievement and on the probability that students attain a score at the basic level of proficiency or above. Students whose teachers have more experience teaching economics, have advanced degrees regardless of content area, or have traditional or standard teaching certificates score higher than other students. I find no evidence that formal teacher education specific to economics leads to higher economic achievement. With respect to school-level characteristics, I find some evidence of peer effects, whereby a student's achievement is influenced by the achievement of his or her peers. I also find that as school size increases, so does economic achievement. Institutional support, proxied by the number of extracurricular and/or co-curricular activities related to economics a school offers, produced mixed results. Only one type of activity, an economics competition, was found to promote economic achievement, while others were found to be irrelevant or actually reduce scores. Finally, requiring a course in economics does seem to promote economic achievement.