Teaching for Tomorrow's Economy? Teacher Effects on Complex Cognitive Skills and Social-Emotional Competencies

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Employment growth in the U.S. is increasingly concentrated among jobs that require both complex cognitive skills and social-emotional competencies. This paper examines the degree to which teachers help students develop these new fundamental skills needed to succeed in the labor market. We leverage data from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project to estimate teacher effects on students’ performance on cognitively demanding open-ended tasks in math and reading, as well as their growth mindset, grit, and effort in class. Exploiting the random assignment of class rosters among sets of general elementary teachers in the same grades and schools, we find substantial variation in teacher effects on complex task performance and social-emotional measures.  Effects are of similar magnitude to teacher effects on state standardized tests. We also find weak relationships between teacher effects on state standardized tests, complex tasks, and social-emotional competencies suggesting that teacher quality is multidimensional. We show that high-stakes decisions based on existing teacher performance measures largely fail to consider the degree to which teachers are developing the skills and competencies most in demand by employers.