Panel Paper: Transfer Restrictions and the Distribution of Teacher Quality

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Marriott Balcony A - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Katherine Key and Tim Sass, Georgia State University

There is growing concern regarding the variation in the quality of teachers across schools and the potential impact of disparate access to effective teachers on racial/ethnic and income-related achievement gaps (Clotfelter, Ladd, and Vigdor, 2005; Sass, et al., 2012). Offering bonuses to teachers willing to work in schools serving primarily disadvantaged students has met with mixed success (Clotfelter, et al., 2008; Glazerman, et al., 2013; Protik, et al., 2015). In this paper we explore the opposite strategy, imposing ex-ante restrictions on teacher transfers. Restricting the ability of teachers to move to another school within a district after they are hired could have two opposing impacts on the distribution of teacher quality within and across districts. Prior research has shown that teachers tend to flee schools with high proportions of minority and disadvantaged students (Hanushek, Kain, and Rivkin 2004; Feng and Sass 2011; Goldhaber, Gross, and Player 2011) and that teachers tend to move to schools with teachers of similar quality (Feng and Sass, 2017). These findings suggest that transfer restrictions could reduce disparities in teacher quality across schools. However, teachers may also be less likely to accept a position in a less desirable school if they know it will be difficult to transfer out of the school. This initial job choice effect could lead to the policy having an effect opposite to the one desired, exacerbating differences in teacher quality across schools. To determine the net impact of intra-district transfer restrictions, we analyze teacher hiring in five districts in a major metropolitan area – two of which have imposed transfer restrictions and three of which have not limited within-district mobility of teachers. We employ detailed information on within-district transfer requests and actual within and between district mobility to gauge teacher and principal preferences, how transfer policies affect teacher supply decisions, and ultimately the effects of transfer-restriction policies on the distribution of teacher quality and student achievement.