Panel Paper: The Effect of Teacher Evaluation Reform on Teacher Mobility, Teacher Performance and Student Achievement: Evidence from Chicago Public Schools

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

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jennie Jiang1, Lauren Sartain1 and Matthew P. Steinberg2, (1)University of Chicago, (2)University of Pennsylvania

Despite the importance of teacher quality to student achievement (Goldhaber, 2002; Rockoff, 2004; Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005), efforts to evaluate teacher performance have, historically, done little to improve student outcomes. Recently, states and districts nationwide have revised their systems of teacher evaluation (Steinberg & Donaldson, 2016), often incorporating multiple methods of assessing and evaluating teachers, including student growth (e.g., value-added measures), classroom observations, and student survey reports of teacher quality. These systems not only provide new information to teachers and principals, but many have also established accountability provisions for low-performing teachers. Teachers may respond to the new systems by revising their instructional practices. In addition, the systems may influence how principals and teachers make strategic staffing decisions.

Recent evidence suggests that teacher evaluation reforms offer promise for improving student outcomes (Taylor & Tyler, 2012; Steinberg & Sartain, 2015) and teacher performance (Dee & Wyckoff, 2015). Further, evidence from Washington D.C. and Houston show that newly revised evaluation systems can play an important role in the removal of underperforming teachers (Dee & Wyckoff, 2015; Cullen, Koedel & Parsons, 2016). Even without an explicit policy focus on the removal of low-performing teachers, a pilot evaluation system in Chicago increased exit from the district for low-rated and non-tenured teachers (Sartain & Steinberg, 2016).

In this study, we examine the following questions in the context of Chicago Public School’s recently revised teacher evaluation system, Recognizing Educators Advancing Chicago Students (REACH):

  1. Does teacher evaluation reform impact the teacher labor market (e.g., low-performing teachers leave the classroom, high-performing teachers use the new information about their quality to switch schools)?
  2. Does teacher evaluation reform improve teacher performance?
  3. Does teacher evaluation reform affect student achievement?

This study relies on detailed administrative data for all students and teachers in Chicago Public Schools for each of the 2012-13 through 2016-17 school years. Preliminary analyses indicate that teacher mobility is related to their evaluation ratings. For example, at the end of the 2016-17 school year, 56 percent of teachers with the lowest evaluation rating exited their schools, compared to 10 percent of teachers with the highest ratings.

To examine the impact of teacher evaluation reform on teacher mobility, performance and student achievement, we take advantage of the fact that teachers’ evaluation ratings are determined by a continuous underlying evaluation score. This allows us to employ regression discontinuity methods to estimate, for example, whether marginally lower-performing teachers are more likely to leave the district than their counterparts who just crossed the ratings threshold and received higher ratings, assessing whether lower-performing teachers respond to the incentive structure (i.e., the accountability threats) of the teacher evaluation system. In additional to contributing to extant evidence on the impact of evaluation reform on teacher and student outcomes, this study makes two additional contributions: 1) examining whether teachers’ labor market decisions – i.e., within-district mobility or exit from Chicago – are voluntary or not, and 2) exploring the role of formal versus informal ratings in informing teacher mobility decisions.