Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Who Decides? Changes over Time in the Distribution of Decision-Making Related to Teacher Hiring

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 1:45 PM
Jasmine (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Mimi Engel1, Marisa Cannata1 and F. Chris Curran2, (1)Vanderbilt University, (2)University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Teacher hiring decisions are a crucial aspect of personnel management in public schools, given that teacher quality is one of the most important school-level predictors of student achievement. Anecdotes and conventional wisdom suggest that teacher hiring has become less centralized over time, with authority moving from district human resource departments to principals. This is logical if the perception is that principals will make “better” hires for their schools than central office administrators. However, there is little to no empirical research documenting the decentralization of teacher hiring.

This paper answers the following research questions:

  1. To what extent is teacher hiring decentralized to the school-level and does this vary systematically across contexts?
  2. Has teacher hiring become less centralized over time?
  3. Has teacher hiring become less centralized within schools over time (have teachers gained influence in hiring over time)?
  4. How do state and district characteristics—such as collective bargaining agreements, district size, and urbanicity—explain the centralization of teacher hiring and changes in centralization over time?

Due to increasing calls for principal autonomy in hiring to improve “fit” between teachers and schools, we hypothesize that principal influence in teacher hiring has increased over time. We use data from the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) to examine trends in the influence of principals and teachers in hiring new teachers for their schools. The SASS has been administered to seven cross-sectional, nationally representative samples of schools between 1987-88 and 2011-12. Each wave included consistent questions that allow us to explore trends in the centralization of teacher hiring over the past two and a half decades. Principal ratings of their own and teachers’ influence over hiring are the key dependent variables of interest in this study.

            We estimate ordered logistic regression models predicting principal rated influence of principals or teachers on teacher hiring. We explore the effects of several independent variables of interest including whether the school was urban, whether the district had a collective bargaining agreement, and district size, conditional on a large number of control variables. We estimate models separately by year as well as for pooled data.  For the pooled data, we include a year dummy to explore trends over time. All standard errors are clustered by district (or district-year for pooled analyses).

Initial results suggest an increase in principal and teacher influence over teacher hiring since 1987-88. For example, the percentage of principals who reported having a major influence over teacher hiring has risen consistently. In 1987 it was 47% and by 2003 it had increased to 85%. We also find that principals of urban schools consistently report less influence over teacher hiring, although the gap between principals of urban schools and their counterparts has shrunk considerably over time. The increasing influence of principals and teachers over teacher hiring suggests substantial decentralization with regard to key organizational decisions in schools over the past two and a half decades. We will explore potential equity implications of the increased decentralization of teacher hiring decisions for educational policy and practice.