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This paper examines the extent to which the allocation of teachers within and across public high schools is contributing to inequality in student test score performance. Using ten years of administrative data from North Carolina public high schools, I estimate a flexible education production function in which student achievement reflects student inputs, teacher quality, school quality, and a school-specific scaling factor that allows the impact of teaching quality to vary across schools. The existence of nearly 3,000 teacher transfers, combined with a testable exogenous mobility assumption, allows separate identification of each teacher’s quality from both school quality and school sensitivity to teacher quality. I find that teaching quality is surprisingly equitably distributed both within and across high schools. Schools predominantly serving underprivileged students employ teachers who are only slightly below average, and most students receive a mix of their school’s good and bad teachers. Overall, I find that the allocation of teacher and school inputs at the high school level contributes only 4% to the achievement gap between the top and bottom deciles of an index of student background. Finally, I find that schools that disproportionately serve disadvantaged students tend to be more sensitive to teacher quality.


Suggested Citation
Mansfield, R. K. (2012). Teacher quality and student inequality [Electronic version]. Retrieved [insert date], from Cornell University, ILR School site:

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