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Improving Teacher Quality in Mexico


Doctoral Candidate, Political Science

Teaching is a core element of the educational process and a significant body of literature demonstrates that good teachers matter a lot for improving student academic achievement. However, research is inconclusive about what can be done to improve teacher effectiveness. What kind of training enhances content knowledge and teaching skills? What type of teacher incentives can improve their teaching practice and outcomes? What are the best ways to evaluate teachers? These type of questions are a pressing issue in developing countries where educational performance is generally inadequate.

The PovGov Program is currently studying teaching polices aimed at improving the quality of the teaching force in Mexico. Our research in this area is focused on interventions targeted to improve teachers´ performance in the classroom, such as monetary and teaching evaluation incentives.

Monetary Incentives

We evaluated “Programa de Estímulo a la Calidad Docente” (PECD), a monetary incentive program, introduced in Mexico in 2010, which is used strategically to reward teachers in high-performing schools located in poor and rural communities. The PECD provided financial incentives to primary and secondary public schools based on their students’ test scores. Nearly 30,000 schools and 300,000 teachers benefited from this program in the first year of implementation.

Our research takes advantage of the program’s resource allocation mechanism. Monetary rewards were allocated to schools ranking at the top 15 percent of the National Evaluation of Academic Achievement (ENLACE) test scores within a cluster of schools defined according to school location, poverty level and the proportion of rural students enrolled. This design allows us to use a regression discontinuity approach and compare those schools that were close to obtaining the incentive - but did not receive it - with schools that barely passed the threshold.

We conclude that PECD has no impact on student achievement. Our results reinforce existing research suggesting that teacher monetary incentives are not enough to increase student performance. Teachers inability to improve student's performance can be explained by the fact that with no further support to reinforce their knowledge, skills, competencies, and pedagogical practices, it is hard to expect that teachers’ salary alone can influence their effectiveness. The lack of teacher preparation is a major challenge for improving teaching effectiveness in Mexico. About 40 percent of teachers in public schools have never attended a teacher education institution, and those who have only spent about 15 percent of their training time learning subject content knowledge.

Teacher Evaluation

Effective teaching requires teachers to continuously update knowledge and skills over the course of their careers. The literature suggests thatwell-designed teacher evaluation programs can contribute to teaching improvement and consequently raise students school performance. Nevertheless, models for teaching evaluation can vary dramatically in their design. One way to differentiate approaches to teacher evaluation depends on the relative emphasis education policy places on two goals: teacher accountability and teacher professional development.

Teaching evaluation initiatives in Mexico have responded to both goals.

The PovGov Program is currently doing a comparative study of different teaching evaluation approaches used in Mexican public schools at the primary level. We build on prior research suggesting that both accountability and teacher professional development have a positive relationship with student achievement growth. Using longitudinal data from large-scale national student assessments and school principal and teacher questionnaires, we study the effectiveness of evaluations of teacher knowledge of curriculum and evaluations of student performance as mechanisms for improving teaching and student learning.

This research can help shape teacher policy in Mexico, as there is a need for more evidence on the effectiveness of different approaches to teacher evaluation, particularly in the context of current education reform, in which, teachers would undergo mandatory periodic evaluations.

Updated: Dec. 2013