Panel: Changing the Rules for Teachers: Empirical Evidence on the Effects of Teacher Labor Market Reforms

Friday, November 9, 2018: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Taft - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Matthew Kraft, Brown University
Discussants:  Matthew P. Steinberg, University of Pennsylvania

Does Licensure Testing Affect the Composition of the Teaching Profession? Evidence from Washington's Professional Teacher Certification
James Cowan, American Institutes for Research and Dan Goldhaber, University of Washington

Does Effectiveness Matter for Teacher Mobility and Attrition Under at-Will Employment Agreements?
Douglas N. Harris1, Jane Lincove2, Nathan Barrett1 and Deven Carlson3, (1)Tulane University, (2)University of Maryland, Baltimore County, (3)University of Oklahoma

Teachers are the most important school-level explanation of variation in student outcomes (e.g. Chetty, Friedman, & Rockoff, 2014b; Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005). There is wide variation in the quality of teachers, which correspondingly results in substantial differences in student achievement. Nonetheless, a large body of evidence demonstrates that disadvantaged students and schools do not have equitable access to high quality teachers in terms of their contributions to student achievement (Glazerman & Max, 2011; Goldhaber et al., 2015; Isenberg et al., 2016; Mansfield, 2015; Sass et al., 2012)

This evidence is one primary rationale behind a recent wave of policy change, with many states enacting broad teacher labor market reforms such as implementing high-stakes teacher evaluation, changing the structure of teacher compensation and rules governing certification, tying tenure decisions to teacher effectiveness, and limiting the power of teachers’ unions to collectively bargain or collect agency fees. Many teacher advocates have viewed these changes as part of a “war on teachers” or on teachers’ unions in particular. However, such policies are often defended as intending to empower school and district leaders to make personnel decisions that positively impact students. Unfortunately, empirical evidence on this debate remains relatively limited. The papers on this panel exploit these policy changes to provide empirical evidence on the effects of reforms to employment policy that have occurred in many states and school districts.

The first paper, by Anderson, et al., uses data from Michigan, where policymakers changed rules governing teacher tenure, evaluation, and collective bargaining. The authors exploit district-level variation in the expiration of teacher contracts, which determined the timing of reform implementation at local levels, to estimate reform impacts on student outcomes. Preliminary evidence indicates that in general, reform had no direct impact on student achievement.

            The second paper, by Cowan and Goldhaber, considers the effects of new teacher licensure requirements in Washington State, finding no impacts on teacher effectiveness overall, but statistically significant reductions in the rate of professional certification and an increase in teacher effectiveness among the lowest rated teachers.

            The third paper, by Biasi, considers reform to the teacher compensation system in Wisconsin, which increased teacher contributions to their retirement plans and in some districts eliminated salary schedule-based pay. This paper shows that these reforms increased the retirement age of high-quality teachers working in individual-salaries districts compared with lower quality teachers, and models an alternative compensation system that promotes longevity in the profession for the most effective teachers.   

The fourth paper, by Barrett, et al examines teacher turnover in New Orleans where extensive school reforms have created a competitive hiring market for teachers, while simultaneously increasing the pressure on schools to increase test scores each year. 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.

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