Poster Paper: The Impact of Consequential Accountability Policies on Teachers’ Mental Health

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Seth Gershenson1, Stephen B. Holt2 and Rui Wang1, (1)American University, (2)State University of New York, Albany

Policies that hold schools accountable for students’ performance play a prominent role in state and federal education policy. However, a potential unintended consequence of these accountability policies is that the resulting pressure exacerbates stress, job dissatisfaction, and burnout among teachers. Teachers’ mental health is an important, understudied teacher characteristic as it likely affects teacher effectiveness, engagement, and retention in the profession. In this paper, we study the impacts of accountability policies on K-12 teachers’ mental health using nationally representative longitudinal survey data. We do so in two ways. First, we exploit state-level variation in the adoption of high-stakes accountability policies in the 1990s. Specifically, we follow Hanushek and Raymond (2005) in using a difference-in-differences (DD) strategy that compares the mental health of teachers in states that did adopt a high-stakes accountability policy to those that did not, before and after the policies were adopted. We also leverage a triple-difference (DDD) design that uses non-teachers in treatment and control states as an additional control group. Second, we exploit the enactment of No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2001, which required states to adopt stringent accountability policies. The NCLB Act primarily affected states that had lax pre-existing accountability policies in place. Here, we implement the DD strategy developed by Dee and Jacob (2011) to examine the causal impacts of NCLB on teachers’ mental health by considering teachers in states with pre-existing NCLB-type accountability policies as the control group. Both analyses use data from the nationally representative National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY) 1979 and 1997 cohorts, which provides various measures of individuals’ mental health from teenage years through adulthood. This data has previously been used to study teacher labor markets, as it includes occupation codes, and the NLSY surveys also include demographics and socioeconomic information on both teachers and non-teachers, prior to and after entering the workforce. By tracking an individual’s mental health over a long period, this paper identifies the accountability’s effects on teachers’ mental health and provides policy implications for future education policy and suggestions on how to better support teachers.