Do Less Effective Teachers Choose Professional Development Does It Matter?

Nathan Barrett, J. S. Butler, Eugenia F. Toma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: In an ongoing effort to improve teacher quality, most states require continuing education or professional development for their inservice teachers. Studies evaluating the effectiveness of various professional development programs have assumed a normal distribution of quality of teachers participating in the programs. Because participation in many professional development programs is either targeted or voluntary, this article suggests past evaluations of the effectiveness of professional development may be subject to selection bias and policy recommendations may be premature. Research Design: This article presents an empirical framework for evaluating professional development programs where treatment is potentially nonrandom, and explicitly accounts for the teacher's prior effectiveness in the classroom as a factor that may influence participation in professional development. This article controls for the influence of selection bias on professional development outcomes by generating a matched sample based on propensity scores and then estimating the program's effect. Results: In applying this framework to the professional development program examined in this article, less effective teachers are found to be more likely to participate in the program, and correcting for this selection leads to different conclusions regarding the program's effectiveness than when ignoring teacher selection patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)346-374
Number of pages29
JournalEvaluation Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article: This project is supported by the National Science Foundation under grant number DUE-0830716.


  • content area
  • design and evaluation of programs and policies
  • economic evaluation
  • education
  • methodology
  • outcome evaluation (other than economic evaluation)
  • program implementation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (all)


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