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Exploring Teacher Improvement in Tennessee

John Papay and Mary Laski look at 10 years of educator data in Tennessee to understand how individual teachers improve over the course of their careers. Extending previous research on teacher effectiveness, this brief shows that, on average, teachers in Tennessee continue to develop throughout their careers and perhaps more rapidly in recent years.

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 Key Findings

Teacher improvement  

  • Teachers in Tennessee are improving over the course of their careers on average. This holds true across subjects and across measures of teacher effectiveness.

  • Teacher improvement varies substantially by district and school. In other words, in some places, teachers are improving (on average) at much greater rates than in others. 

  • Teachers in Tennessee appear to improve at about the same rates in higher-poverty schools as in lower-poverty schools. 

  • Teacher improvement appears to be steeper in more recent years.


This analysis uses data on Tennessee teachers in grades 4-8 over the past decade. Teacher effectiveness is measured using student test scores, teacher observation data, and teachers' value-added ratings.

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