Estimating the “Effective Teaching Gap”
Inequality in educational outcomes is substantial and persistent in the United States. Students from high-income families outperform those from low-income families on achievement tests, are more likely to graduate high school, and are more likely to earn a college degree. Black and Hispanic students also earn lower scores on standardized tests, on average, and are less likely to graduate high school and go to college than white and Asian students. While there are many possible explanations for these differences, one frequent hypothesis is that high-income white and Asian students are taught by more effective teachers. However, this paper finds that low- and high-income students have nearly equal access to effective teachers. Effective teachers are found in high-poverty schools, even if their accomplishments are often overlooked because their students typically start out far behind. Conversely, ineffective teachers can be found in high-performing schools, where the impacts of subpar instruction can be camouflaged by students’ other advantages.