Panel: Policy Reforms and the Distribution of School Principal Effectiveness

Saturday, November 8, 2014: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Cimarron (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Steven Rivkin, University of Illinois, Chicago
Panel Chairs:  Steven Rivkin, University of Illinois, Chicago
Discussants:  Helen Ladd, Duke University

Local School Councils, Principal Retention, and Student Outcomes
Derek Laing1, Steven Rivkin2, Jeffrey Schiman2 and Jason Ward2, (1)Syracuse University, (2)University of Illinois, Chicago

Teach for America and the Development of School Leadership
Gregory Branch, University of Texas, Dallas, Eric Hanushek, Stanford University and Steven Rivkin, University of Illinois, Chicago

Education policy discussions have focused increasingly on the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders, and recent policy reforms tend to work along two main determinants of quality: selection and incentives. I propose a session on school principals that includes three papers that investigate the impacts of both incentives and selection on the distribution of principal effectiveness. The first paper, “How Principal Merit Pay Affects Award Winners, Award Losers, and the Distribution of School Quality,” studies the effects of the recently adopted principal merit pay program in Chicago. The second paper, “The Effectiveness and job mobility of Teach for America Alumni serving as School Principals in Texas,” compares the effectiveness and persistence of the TFA alumni with other principals, particularly those working in high poverty or high minority share schools. Finally, the third paper, “Local School Councils, Principal Retention, and Student Outcomes,” uses Chicago public school administrative and survey data and accountability ratings to examine the factors associated with principal contract renewal, with a particular focus on understanding factors that contribute to principal contract renewal despite evidence of poor performance. These three papers consider primary reforms aimed at improving the quality of schooling. Merit pay provides incentives for principals to exert greater effort and focus on achieving specific educational objectives. In addition, strengthening the link between pay and performance may also alter the composition of the school principal applicant pool. On the plus side, merit pay could induce highly effective administrators to enter the market and poor performers to exit. On the downside, the increased pay uncertainty could reduce supply in the absence of pay increases, particularly in schools where it is perceived to be more difficult to obtain an award. The study of TFA alumni principals considers a possible longer-term benefit from expanding the pool of potential teachers to include TFA corp members. The TFA teachers have strong academic credentials and are rated by TFA to have strong leadership potential. If the selection process actually identifies those with strong leadership skills one might expect them to have a higher probability of success as school principals than those that enter the teaching profession through more traditional channels. The fact that TFA corp members teach in highly disadvantaged schools introduces the possibility that TFA alumni would elevate the quality of principals that would like to lead such schools, a possibility that will be considered in the analysis. The final paper, on local School Councils considers the effects of school decentralization on the distribution and effectiveness of school leaders. As has been discussed in the literature, local school councils are likely to have different objectives than are present in a centralized system, but it is not clear that either the objectives or management practices under decentralization are more conducive to greater school quality than under a centralized administrative structure. This is a particularly important issue for low-achieving schools serving disadvantaged populations.
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