February 14, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo
I’ve previously written about the work of education researcher Kirabo Jackson, particularly in More Evidence Showing The Dangers Of Using High-Stakes Testing For Teacher Evaluation and Statistic Of The Day: New Study Finds That Money Matters For Schools.
Today, Matt Barnum (whose work I have also shared several times) interviews him over at The 74, The 74 Interview: Kirabo Jackson on the Importance of School Spending, ‘Soft Skills’ and Teacher Quality.
You’ll definitely want to read the entire interview, but I was particularly struck by this part:
Can you describe the relationship between the teacher effects and students’ long-run outcomes?
The long-run outcomes that I look at in this current study, looking at students in ninth grade and their ninth-grade teachers. Then I look at their 12th grade outcomes, whether they graduate from high school and whether they report that they’re going to attend college. The finding there is that the teacher effects on these soft skills are much more predictive of their effects on these longer-run outcomes than the teacher effects on test scores. Teacher effects on test scores do predict — teachers who raise test scores are associated with higher levels of high school graduation and higher levels of students planning to go to four-year college, but the effects of teachers on the soft skills are much larger in magnitude.
I wasn’t quite sure if it said what I thought it said, so I corresponded with Matt, who gave me permission to include his responses – I think it’s pretty interesting and important and definitely food for thought:
LF: I really liked the interview you did with Kirabo Jackson, and plan to blog about it. I do have a question about one portion of it, however. In the response on soft skills and long-term outcomes, is he saying that ninth-grade teachers who are particularly good in helping student acquire soft skills are more successful “much larger in magnitude” in having students graduate and attend college? Or is he talking about other kinds of long-term outcomes?
I think your initial interpretation is correct – that is teachers’ “value-added” to soft skills is more predictive than their value-added to test scores of students’ long run outcomes like graduating high school and attending college. However, teachers’ value-added to test scores *is* itself predictive of long run outcomes – just less so than their value-added to soft skills>
LF: One more question- in his past research, I know he has looked at suspension rates and other elements (I’ve listed them in a previous post about his studies tho can’t remember the others right now). That’s still the measurement he is using for ‘soft skills’?
Yep – that’s right. The “soft skills” are “absences, suspensions, course grades, and on-time grade progression” and he’s connected teachers effects on those soft skills to teachers’ impacts on long run outcomes including high school graduation and college attendance. That is teachers who improve short-run soft skills (and test scores) also improve long-run outcomes.