Many states and districts are utilizing the portfolio strategy of school turnaround for reforming persistently low-performing schools. The use of a portfolio strategy to turnaround failing schools raises the question of the extent of teacher mobility and whether there is a difference between the overall quality of incoming teachers relative to the quality of teachers exiting these schools. In turnaround initiatives, schools are often taken over by charter management organizations (CMOs), and at least a portion, if not all, of the staff in these schools may be replaced. However, we currently know little about the characteristics of teachers who enter, exit or remain in these schools. In this paper, we report on dynamics of teacher mobility in the Achievement School District (ASD) in Tennessee, a part of the state’s Race to the Top-funded school turnaround initiative. Within the ASD, most schools have been transitioned into Charter Management Organizations (CMO) and some are managed directly by the ASD. Using Tennessee’s teacher-level longitudinal data, we examine to what extent teacher characteristics (including teacher experience, education level, and quality as measured by value-added scores) relate to entering, exiting and remaining in schools currently under the auspices of the ASD. We disaggregate this data according to the type of new management (CMO-run vs. ASD direct-run). Further, we conduct a teacher survey with both current and former ASD teachers to investigate the reasons for which these teachers chose to enter or remain in the ASD. Ultimately, the final roster of teachers can have significant implications for the effectiveness of the ASD.
Preliminary analyses of teacher mobility patterns indicate that approximately 14 percent of the teachers that staffed schools taken over by ASD in 2011-12 remained in the schools in the year after the takeover. This compares to 70 percent of teachers who remained in these same schools prior to state takeover, between the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years. In the first year of operation, CMO-run and ASD direct-run schools used different hiring strategies. While most of the new hires for ASD direct-run schools came from more experienced Tennessee teachers, those for CMO-run schools were new to the state of Tennessee. In general, the ASD schools added higher performing teachers, in terms of value-added scores, than they lost. In the 2012-13 school year, the ASD schools had the highest ratio of high performing to low performing teacher hires as compared to all other types of schools in the state, including the other lowest performing schools, charter schools and all other schools in Tennessee.