John Papay

Assistant Professor of Education


A graduate of Haverford College, Papay taught high school history in Pennsylvania and worked as a health care policy research analyst in Washington, D.C., before beginning studies at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. He received an EdD in quantitative policy analysis of education in 2011. Papay is the co-author of Redesigning Teacher Pay: A System for the Next Generation of Educators (Economic Policy Institute, 2009) and several articles in publications including the Journal of EconometricsAmerican Educational Research JournalEducational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Papay’s recent work includes exploring teacher hiring practices, teacher evaluation policies (specifically, peer review programs), and teacher career growth. He’s also investigating how specific working conditions may contribute to teachers’ improvement throughout their careers or their longevity in a particular school. Additionally, Papay has studied standardized testing, looking both at how these tests are used to evaluate teachers and the “unintended consequences” of state tests for students. For example, he has compared the educational outcomes of students who score just on either side of the proficiency cutoffs on these tests. His findings indicate that low-income students who barely fail a state-mandated high school exit examination, as opposed to barely passing the test, are eight percentage points less likely to graduate from high school on time.

In a separate study, he looked at how the other performance labels that students earn on these tests (e.g., needs improvement, proficient, or advanced) can affect their decisions to enroll in postsecondary education. Papay found that earning a more positive label summarizing their test performance increases their probability of going to college.


Consequences of state tests, Postsecondary education choices, Teacher career growth, Teacher hiring and evaluation practices