Panel Paper: Does Effectiveness Matter for Teacher Mobility and Attrition Under at-Will Employment Agreements?

Friday, November 9, 2018
Taft - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Douglas N. Harris1, Jane Lincove2, Nathan Barrett1 and Deven Carlson3, (1)Tulane University, (2)University of Maryland, Baltimore County, (3)University of Oklahoma

The academic research has been clear in supporting the common-sense beliefs that teachers are the most important school level resource for student outcomes, and that teachers vary widely in their ability to positively affect those outcomes. This evidence has been the key driver for developments in teacher policies over the past decade, which have primarily focused on improving the way in which teacher effectiveness is measured and linking teacher compensation and retention decisions to those measures. While these policies have the potential to improve the quality of the teacher workforce, they have also challenged long-standing traditions in teaching. In doing so, they rely on the assumptions that effective teachers will not respond to these changes by leaving the profession and that incoming teachers will be more effective than those they replace.

Although many states have introduced evaluation systems, eliminated traditional job protections, and experimented with compensation strategies, there has been little research that has provided a comprehensive understanding of how these policy changes affect teacher mobility and attrition. Particularly with respect to teacher effectiveness. This study seeks to fill this gap by studying labor market outcomes of teachers based on effectiveness in New Orleans. Specifically, we examine the extent to which less effective teachers exit the profession, the effectiveness of incoming teachers replacing them, and finally, the mobility patterns of highly effective teachers.

New Orleans provides a unique policy environment to study these questions as the city’s public education system is comprised entirely of charter schools where charter management organizations (CMOs) have complete autonomy over decisions regarding retention and compensation of their teachers. New Orleans also has a very strong accountability system that closes schools based on poor performance, thus providing school leaders additional incentives to focus on the effectiveness of their teachers.

Preliminary results suggest that the attrition rates of less effective teachers in New Orleans are higher than comparison districts that have more traditional job protections and compensation systems. However, the attrition rates of highly effective teachers are also higher in New Orleans than comparison districts. Highly effective teachers are also more mobile. Finally, the average effectiveness of incoming teachers is not statistically different than the average effectiveness of exiting teachers.