Panel Paper: The Impact of School and District Turnaround on Teacher Labor Markets

Friday, November 8, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Governor's Square 14 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jason Burns, Katharine Strunk, Joshua Cowen and Amy M. Auletto, Michigan State University

Teachers are crucial to student achievement and long-term outcomes. Recognizing this, many school turnaround models – programs and policies aimed at improving student outcomes at low-performing schools – focus on issues of staffing and teacher development. Despite a growing body of research on school turnaround, relatively little is known about how turnaround initiatives influence the labor market for teachers in low-performing schools. We investigate this issue in the context of a statewide turnaround policy in Michigan.

In 2017, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) adopted the Partnership Model of School and District Turnaround as the state’s program of school and district accountability, which in 2018 became part of Michigan’s plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Under the Partnership Model, MDE first identifies chronically low-performing schools and then works with their districts to create a Partnership Agreement that identifies a plan to turn around identified schools over a 36-month period. Importantly, the Partnership Model emphasizes support over a punitive approach. Supports provided through the Partnership Model include flexibility to adapt reforms to the local context, partnerships that connect identified low-performing schools/districts with technical assistance from MDE and their Intermediate School District, and grant funding to support identified schools’/districts’ Partnership Agreement. Since the inception of the Partnership Model, 123 low-performing schools in 36 districts have been identified in three rounds.

This study investigates whether the enactment of the Partnership Model impacts the labor market for teachers in identified low-performing schools and their districts. In particular, we ask whether being identified impacts the makeup of the teacher workforce in identified schools and districts (relative to similar schools and districts that were not identified for the reform), and if the reform affects teacher retention and attrition within and from turnaround schools and districts. In addition, we rely on data from population surveys of teachers within turnaround schools and districts to assess factors that may be associated with changes in mobility patterns.

To answer these research questions we draw on three sources of data: student administrative records (n=7,959,023 student-years), teacher administrative records (n=511,987 teacher-years), and data from a survey of teachers who work in districts with at least one school identified as chronically low-performing (n=2823, 45% teacher response rate, 94%/100% school/district coverage). We analyze administrative data using an event study framework to examine compositional changes and mobility outcomes of the teaching force in schools and districts in the years leading up to, and following, their identification as chronically low-performing. We supplement these results with descriptive and correlational analyses of our teacher survey data to identify factors that drive compositional change and mobility outcomes.

Preliminary results suggest that, relative to other low-performing schools, turnaround schools experience higher rates of teacher turnover following identification and that turnover is concentrated among teachers with fewer years of experience. We also find suggestive evidence that Partnership schools become more reliant on emergency certified and long-term substitute teachers. Analyses of survey data indicate that job satisfaction and professional supports are important factors in teacher mobility within turnaround schools and districts.