Panel Paper: Hiring Reforms to Improve Worker Productivity, Diversity and Retention: Evidence from Teachers

Friday, November 9, 2018
8212 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Matthew Kraft1, John Papay1, Leigh Wedenoja1 and Nathan Jones2, (1)Brown University, (2)Boston University

Hiring is a two-way matching process where schools select candidates who best meet their needs and teachers select schools where they can best see themselves teaching. However, the labor market for teachers often functions in ways that can hinder effective matching. Tenure rules and collective bargaining agreements can limit the flexibility of principals to hire the teachers they believe could best meet the needs of their students. District transfer policies and hiring processes can also lead administrators to wait to fill positions until late in the summer or even well after the school year has started.

We study one district’s efforts to address these challenges by decentralizing the hiring process and liberalizing the rules governing how teachers are hired. Starting in 2014-15, Boston Public Schools (BPS) undertook a large and ambitious effort to address structural and policy barriers that constrained administrators’ ability to staff their schools both on time and with teachers who are well matched to their school. Prior to the reforms, 17 percent of new BPS teachers were hired after the beginning of the school year and 37 percent left their schools after the first year. We estimate the causal impact of these reforms on a range of outcomes including the timing of new teacher hires, teacher diversity, teacher effectiveness, and teacher turnover.

Data and Methods

Our analyses draw on detailed hiring records containing information for the universe of job
applications received by BPS. We link these data to administrative data on students, teachers and schools in BPS over a nine-year period from 2009-10 to 2017-18. We first present descriptive event-study evidence of changes over time in the characteristics of teachers newly hired by BPS. We then estimate the causal effect of this sudden and largely unanticipated policy change using difference-in-differences (DD) methods where traditional BPS schools serve as the treated group and district charter, pilot and turnaround schools that operated with hiring autonomy prior to 2014-15 serve as the comparison group.


BPS’s hiring reforms affected the hiring process and the pool of newly hired teachers in a range of ways that were consistent with the district’s reform goals. Most basically, the district was able to move the median hiring approval date for new hires up by over two months in the course of single year. Drawing on our DD estimates, we find that the reforms reduced the prevalence of late hiring in traditional BPS schools by 12 percentage points, nearly a 50 percent reduction. The reforms also decreased turnover among new hires in traditional schools by 13 percentage points, a 30 percent reduction. Findings also suggest that the reforms increased the diversity and effectiveness of new hires although these positive point estimates are not distinguishable from zero. The lessons from BPS’s hiring reforms can help inform efforts by districts across the country that continue to struggle with hiring delays and a lack of school autonomy around staffing decisions.