Are Gifted Students Matched to Teachers who are More Effective with Gifted Students?

Classrooms are becoming more diverse, with students of all abilities being mainstreamed into general education classrooms. Teachers are now tasked with differentiating instruction for a wide range of learning levels (Tomlinson, 2000). Even good teachers are not necessarily good at teaching all students all things. Unfortunately, little differentiation occurs in most classrooms (see Reis & Renzulli, 2010 for a review), and recent studies suggest that teachers often focus most of their attention on average students or students who are close to meeting a proficiency benchmark (Kenney et al., 2024; Neal & Schanzenbach, 2010; Rambo-Hernandez & McCoach, 2014). Correspondingly, the highest performing students may grow more slowly than others, suggesting that these students may not be reaching their potential.

Although these studies shed light on what happens in the average classroom, they do not necessarily address teachers’ relative effectiveness across different student groups. Using 8 years of rich administrative data from a large California district, we are examining how teacher effectiveness relates to gifted and talented education. Specifically,

  • Are some teachers better at improving cognitive (as measured by teacher value-added) and/or non-cognitive performance of gifted students relative to non-gifted students and vice-versa?
  • Are gifted students more likely to be assigned to teachers who are more effective at gifted education?
  • Do gifted students who are assigned to teachers who are highly effective at gifted education in middle school tend to have better high school outcomes?