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Teach For America (TFA) is an alternative certification program that intensively recruits and selects recent college graduates and midcareer professionals to teach in schools serving high-need students. Prior rigorous evaluations of the program have generally found positive effects of TFA teachers on students’ learning in math and science and no significant differences in reading or language arts, compared with non-TFA teachers’ effects in the same schools. No priorstudies, however, have specifically focused on TFA effects in the Atlanta region.
This report examines the efficacy of TFA teachers in the Atlanta region spanning the 2005-06 through 2013-14 school years. Using longitudinal administrative data from three major school districts with significant numbers of recent TFA placements, we generate TFA effect estimates based on two series of Georgia’s standardized tests—the end-of-grade Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs) and end-of-course tests (EOCTs).
We find evidence of a positive effect in student learning due to the hiring of TFA teachers in these three districts, compared with the performance of non-TFA colleagues in the same schools. Estimated TFA effects are positive and statistically significant in social studies and science on the state’s CRCTs, and in American literature on the state’s EOCTs. We find no significant differences in performance between TFA and non-TFA teachers in the other subjects we analyzed. Supplementary analyses show these results are not sensitive to the inclusion of data from a period of well-documented test score manipulation in Atlanta Public Schools.
Citation: Michael Hansen, Tim Sass (2015). Performance Estimates of Teach For America Teachers in Atlanta Metropolitan Area School Districts. CALDER Working Paper No. 145
We use data from workers in the largest public-sector occupation in the United States – teaching – to examine the effect of pension enhancements on employee retention. Specifically, we study a 1999 enhancement to the benefit formula for public school teachers in St. Louis that resulted in an immediate and dramatic increase in their incentives to remain in covered employment. To identify the effect of the enhancement on teacher retention, we leverage the fact that the strength of the incentive increase varied across the workforce depending on how far teachers were from retirement eligibility when it was enacted. Our results indicate that the St. Louis enhancement – which was structurally similar to enhancements that were enacted in other public pension plans across the United States in the late 1990s and early 2000s – was not a cost-effective way to increase employee retention.
Citation: Cory Koedel, P. Brett Xiang (2015). Pension Enhancements and the Retention of Public Employees: Evidence from Teaching. CALDER Working Paper No. 123
We use data from Washington state to examine two distinct stages of the teacher pipeline: the placement of prospective teachers in student teaching assignments and the hiring of prospective teachers into their first teaching positions. We find that prospective teachers are likely to complete their student teaching near their colleges and hometowns but prospective teachers’ student teaching positions are much more predictive of their first teaching positions than their hometowns. This suggests that the “draw of home” in new teacher hiring is driven by patterns in student teaching assignments. We also find that more qualified prospective teachers tend to student teach in more advantaged districts, suggesting that patterns in student teaching assignments may contribute to the inequitable distribution of teacher quality.
Citation: John Krieg, Roddy Theobald, Dan Goldhaber (2015). A Foot in the Door: Exploring the Role of Student Teaching Assignments in Teachers’ Initial Job Placements. CALDER Working Paper No. 144
Due to data limitations, very little is known about patterns of teacher cross-state mobility. The issue is important because barriers to cross-state mobility create labor market frictions that could lead both current and prospective teachers to opt out of the teaching profession. For this paper, we match state-level administrative data sets from Oregon and Washington and present evidence on patterns of in-service teacher mobility between these two states. We find levels of cross-state mobility that are drastically lower than levels of within-state mobility, even when accounting for proximity to the border. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that there are significant penalties to cross-state mobility that may be attributable to state-specific licensure regulations, seniority rules and pension structures.
Citation: Dan Goldhaber, Cyrus Grout, Kristian Holden, Nate Brown (2015). Crossing the Border? Exploring the Cross-State Mobility of the Teacher Workforce. CALDER Working Paper No. 143
Public pension systems in many U.S. states face large funding shortfalls. Movement toward defined contribution (DC) pension structures may reduce the likelihood of future shortfalls. We address some limitations of the existing literature by studying public-sector employees who are enrolled in either a defined benefit (DB) plan or hybrid DB-DC plan, and who at some points have been able to choose between these plans. We find little evidence that the introduction of the hybrid plan increased employee turnover and that turnover is significantly lower among those who transferred from the DB plan to the hybrid plan.
Citation: Dan Goldhaber, Cyrus Grout, Kristian Holden (2015). Pension Structure and Employee Turnover: Evidence from a Large Public Pension System. CALDER Working Paper No. 142
We investigated the effects of a statewide program designed to increase the supply of teachers in “hard-to-staff” areas. The Florida Critical Teacher Shortage Program (FCTSP) had three elements: (a) it provided loan forgiveness to teachers who were certified and taught in designated shortage areas; (b) it compensated teachers for the tuition cost of taking courses to become certified in a designated shortage area; and (c) for a single year, it gave bonuses to high school teachers who were certified and taught in a designated subject area. Employing a difference-in-difference estimator, we find that the loan forgiveness program decreased attrition of teachers in shortage areas, although the effects varied by subject. Allowing for variation in the size of payments, we find that the effects were more pronounced when loan-forgiveness payments were more generous. A triple-difference estimate indicated the bonus program also substantially reduced the likelihood of teachers leaving the public school sector. A panel probit analysis reveals that the tuition-reimbursement program had modest positive effects on the likelihood a teacher would become certified in a designated shortage area. We also present qualitative evidence that loan-forgiveness recipients were of higher quality (as measured by value added) than nonrecipients who taught in the same subject but were not certified and thus ineligible.
Citation: Li Feng, Tim Sass (2015). The Impact of Incentives to Recruit and Retain Teachers in “Hard-to-Staff” Subjects: An Analysis of the Florida Critical Teacher Shortage Program. CALDER Working Paper No. 141
We examine the extent to which clustering large numbers of Teach For America (TFA) corps members in a limited number of low-performing schools was accompanied by changes in teacher mobility decisions. Using longitudinal data from Miami-Dade spanning six school years, augmented with survey responses from TFA’s own Alumni Survey for cohorts placed in the Miami region, we use Cox proportional hazards models and multinomial logit decision models in a modified difference-in-difference (DD) framework. Our results suggest that the increased concentration of TFA corps members in schools was associated with a reduction in TFA mobility across schools after the first year of service, but it did not affect the overall retention of corps members in the district after the two-year commitment. In addition, we find evidence suggesting non-TFA teachers in schools with a relatively high proportion of TFA corps members were significantly more likely to leave the district. We also find that TFA corps members retained beyond the two-year commitment performed substantially better in mathematics during their first two years of teaching: evidence of positive selection into postcommitment retention. Finally, we produce steady-state estimates of the minimum TFA effects necessary for the district to prefer hiring a TFA corps member relative to a non-TFA hire. TFA corps members in the district exceed this minimum value in both reading and mathematics.
Citation: Michael Hansen, Benjamin Backes, Victoria Brady (2015). Teacher Attrition and Mobility During the Teach For America Clustering Strategy in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. CALDER Working Paper No. 139
A sizeable body of evidence has documented the effectiveness of Teach For America (TFA) corps members at raising the mathematics test scores of their students, though little is known about the program’s impact at the school level. TFA’s recent placement strategy in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, in which large numbers of TFA corps members are placed as clusters into a targeted set of disadvantaged schools, provides an opportunity to evaluate the impact of the TFA program on broader school performance. This study examines whether the influx of TFA corps members led to a spillover effect on other teachers’ performance. We find that many of the schools chosen to participate in the cluster strategy experienced large subsequent gains in mathematics achievement. These gains were driven in part by the composition effect of having larger numbers of effective TFA corps members. However, we do not find any evidence that the clustering strategy led to any spillover effect on schoolwide performance. In other words, our estimates suggest that the extra student gains for TFA corps members under the clustering strategy would be equivalent to gains resulting from an alternate placement strategy in which corps members were evenly distributed across schools.
Revised August 31, 2015
Citation: Michael Hansen, Benjamin Backes, Victoria Brady, Zeyu Xu (2015). Examining Spillover Effects from Teach For America Corps Members in Miami- Dade County Public Schools. CALDER Working Paper No. 113
There is increased policy interest in extending test-based evaluations in K-12 education to include student achievement in high school. High school achievement is typically measured by performance on end-of-course exams (EOCs), which test course-specific standards in a variety of subjects. However, unlike standardized tests in the early grades, students take EOCs at different points in their schooling careers. The timing of the test is a choice variable presumably determined by input from administrators, students and parents. Recent research indicates that school and district policies that determine when students take particular courses can have important consequences for achievement and subsequent outcomes like advanced course taking. We develop an approach for modeling EOC test performance that disentangles the influence of school and district policies regarding the timing of course taking from other factors. After separating out the timing issue, better measures of the quality of instruction provided by districts, schools and teachers can be obtained. Our approach also offers diagnostic value because it separates out the influence of school and district course-timing policies from other factors that determine student achievement.
Citation: Eric Parsons, Cory Koedel, Michael Podgursky, Mark Ehlert , P. Brett Xiang (2015). Incorporating End-of-Course Exam Timing into Educational Performance Evaluations. CALDER Working Paper No. 137
This study uses detailed administrative data on teachers and students from the state of North Carolina to revisit the empirical evidence on master’s degrees, with attention to teachers at the middle and high school levels. It provides descriptive information on which types of teachers obtain master’s degrees, for which subjects, at which institutions, and during what phase of their career. The study estimates returns to master’s degrees using teacher fixed effects to control for time-invariant characteristics of teachers, thus separating the effects of teacher decisions to get an advanced degree from the effects of having one. Even with this careful attention to selection bias, we confirm the findings of prior studies showing that teachers with master’s degrees are no more effective than those without. The only consistently positive effect of attaining a master’s degree emerging from this study relates not to student test scores but rather to lower student absentee rates in middle school.
Citation: Helen Ladd, Lucy C. Sorensen (2015). Do Master’s Degrees Matter? Advanced Degrees, Career Paths, and the Effectiveness of Teachers. CALDER Working Paper No. 136
We investigate patterns of teacher mobility in districts with different collective bargaining agreement (CBA) transfer provisions. We use detailed teacher-level longitudinal data from Washington State to estimate the probability that teachers of varying experience and effectiveness levels transfer out of their schools to other schools in the district, to other districts, or out of Washington kindergarten through 12th grade (K–12) public schools. We find consistent evidence that within-district transfer probabilities increase for veteran teachers with the proportion of disadvantaged students in a school but decrease for novice teachers with the proportion of disadvantaged students, and that the strength of these relationships is associated with the strength of seniority transfer provisions in CBAs. Specifically, the pattern of veteran teachers’ leaving disadvantaged schools and novice teachers’ staying in disadvantaged schools is more pronounced in districts with strong CBA seniority transfer protections. CBA transfer provisions do not, however, appear to be an important factor in teacher transfers out of school districts or the K–12 public school workforce in Washington. Finally, we find some evidence that more effective teachers are more likely to stay in advantaged schools when seniority is not a factor in transfer decisions.
Citation: Dan Goldhaber, Lesley Lavery, Roddy Theobald (2015). Inconvenient Truth? Do Collective Bargaining Agreements Help Explain the Mobility of Teachers Within School Districts?. CALDER Working Paper No. 135
A defining characteristic of charter schools is that they introduce a strong market element into public education. In this paper, we examine the evolution of the charter school sector in North Carolina between 1999 and 2012 through the lens of a market model. We examine trends in the mix of students enrolled in charter schools, the racial imbalance of charter schools, the quality of the match between parental preferences in charter schools relative to the quality of match in traditional public schools, and the distribution of test score performance across charter schools relative those in traditional public schools serving similar students over time. Taken together, our findings imply that the charter schools in North Carolina are increasingly serving the interests of relatively able white students in racially imbalanced schools.
Citation: Helen Ladd, Charles Clotfelter, John B. Holbein (2015). The Growing Segmentation of the Charter School Sector in North Carolina. CALDER Working Paper No. 133
One consequence of the Great Recession is that teacher layoffs occurred at a scale previously unseen. In this paper we assess the effects of receiving a layoff notice on teacher mobility using data from Los Angeles and Washington State. We find strong evidence that the receipt of a layoff notice increases the likelihood that teachers leave their schools, even in the absence of actually losing their position due to a layoff. Placebo tests suggest that it is the layoff process that induces “structural churn” rather than differential mobility of the teachers who are targeted by this process.
Citation: Dan Goldhaber, Katharine O. Strunk, Nate Brown, David S. Knight (2015). Lessons Learned from the Great Recession: Layoffs an the RIF-Induced Teacher Shuffle. CALDER Working Paper No. 129
This study provides a first look at how student college- and career-readiness have progressed in the early years of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) implementation. It is motivated by concern that changes triggered by the standards transition might be disruptive to student learning in the short run, even when those changes may become beneficial once fully implemented. Using longitudinal administrative data from Kentucky, an early adopter of the CCSS, we followed three cohorts of students from the end of the 8th grade to the end of the 11th grade and found that students exposed to the CCSS—including students in both high- and low-poverty schools—made faster progress in learning than similar students who were not exposed to the standards. Although it is not conclusive whether cross-cohort improvement was entirely attributable to the standards reform, we found that students made large gains in proficiency in the years immediately before and after the transition. Additionally, we found student performance in subjects that adopted CCSS-aligned curriculum framework experienced larger, more immediate improvement than student performance in subjects that carried over last-generation curriculum framework.
Citation: Zeyu Xu, Kennan Cepa (2015). Getting College and Career Ready During State Transition Toward the Common Core State Standards. CALDER Working Paper No. 127
In this paper we examine how failing to make adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and the accountability pressure that ensues, affects various non-achievement student behaviors. Using administrative data from North Carolina and leveraging a discontinuity in the determination of school failure, we examine the causal impact of accountability pressure both on student behaviors that are incentivized by NCLB and on those that are not. We find evidence that, as NCLB intends, pressure encourages students to show up at school and to do so on time. Accountability pressure also has the unintended effect, however, of increasing the number of student misbehaviors such as suspensions, fights, and offenses reportable to law enforcement. Further, this negative response is most pronounced among minorities and low performing students, who are the most likely to be left behind. iii
Citation: John B. Holbein, Helen Ladd (2015). Accountability Pressure and Non-Achievement Student Behaviors. CALDER Working Paper No. 122
The relatively low status of teaching as a profession is often given as a factor contributing to the difficulty of recruiting teachers, the middling performance of American students on international assessments, and the well-documented decline in the relative academic ability of teachers through the 1990s. Since the turn of the 21st century, however, a number of federal, state, and local teacher accountability policies have been implemented toward improving teacher quality over the objections of some who argue the policies will decrease quality. In this paper we analyze 25 years of data on the academic ability of teachers in New York State and document that since 1999 the academic ability of both individuals certified and those entering teaching has steadily increased. These gains are widespread and have resulted in a substantial narrowing of the differences in teacher academic ability between high and low poverty schools and between white and minority teachers. We interpret these gains as evidence that the status of teaching is improving.
Citation: Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, Andrew McEachin, Luke Miller, James Wyckoff (2015). Who Enters Teaching? Encouraging Evidence that the Status of Teaching is Improving. CALDER Working Paper No. 124
Evidence suggests that teacher hiring in public schools is ad hoc and often fails to result in good selection among applicants. Some districts use structured selection instruments in the hiring process, but we know little about the efficacy of such tools. In this paper, we evaluate the ability of applicant selection tools used by the Spokane Public Schools to predict three outcomes: measures of teachers’ value-added contributions to student learning, teacher absence behavior, and attrition rates. We observe all applicants to the district and are therefore able to estimate sample selection-corrected models, using random tally errors in selection instruments and differences in the quality of competition across job postings. These two factors influence the probability of being hired by Spokane Public Schools but are unrelated to measures of teacher performance. We find that the screening instruments predict teacher value added in student achievement and teacher attrition but not teacher absences. A onestandard- deviation increase in screening scores is associated with an increase of between 0.03 and 0.07 standard deviations in student achievement and a decrease in teacher attrition of 2.5 percentage points.
Citation: Dan Goldhaber, Cyrus Grout, Nick Huntington-Klein (2014). Screen Twice, Cut Once: Assessing the Predictive Validity of Teacher Selection Tools. CALDER Working Paper No. 120
In this paper, we present a closer look at the student achievement trends in the District of Columbia between 2006-07 and 2012-13. We have three main conclusions. First, we find that overall, math scores in the District have improved. The improvements in reading scores during this time frame, however, were primarily limited to the first year after the PERAA implementation. While almost all student subgroups have experienced test score gains in math, these improvements were higher among the more affluent black and Hispanic students. Second, we find that these observed trends in math scores persist even after controlling for the cross-cohort differences in observed student characteristics. In particular, the estimates indicate that less than 10 percent of the year-to-year improvements in test scores can be attributed to the changing student composition in the District over this time frame. Finally, we show that existing students have also experienced gains in math even though the students who are new to the District’s public school system score at higher levels on standardized tests when compared to existing students.
Citation: Umut Özek (2014). A Closer Look at the Student Achievement Trends in the District of Columbia between 2006-07 and 2012-13. CALDER Working Paper No. 119
Teacher and principal evaluation systems now emerging in response to federal, state and/or local policy initiatives typically require that a component of teacher evaluation be based on multiple performance metrics, which must be combined to produce summative ratings of teacher effectiveness. Districts have utilized three common approaches to combine these multiple performance measures, all of which introduce bias and/or additional prediction error that was not present in the performance measures originally. This paper investigates whether the bias and error introduced by these approaches erodes the ability of evaluation systems to reliably identify high- and low-performing teachers. The analysis compares the expected differences in long-term teacher value-added among teachers identified as high- or low-performing under these three approaches, using simulated data based on estimated inter-correlations and reliability of measures in the Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching project. Based on the results of our simulation exercise presented here, we conclude these approaches can undermine the evaluation system’s objectives in some contexts. Depending on the way these performance measures are actually combined to categorize teacher performance, the additional error and bias can be large enough to undermine the district’s objectives.
Citation: Michael Hansen, Mariann Lemke, Nicholas Sorensen (2014). Combining Multiple Performance Measures: Do Common Approaches Undermine Districts’ Personnel Evaluation Systems?. CALDER Working Paper No. 118
This paper describes teacher tenure reforms first enacted by the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) during the 2009-10 academic year (AY) and the changes in the district’s teacher workforce following the reforms. We show that the reforms dramatically changed the proportion of eligible teachers receiving tenure, as well as the career paths of early career teachers, more generally.
Citation: Susanna Loeb, Luke Miller, James Wyckoff (2014). Performance Screens for School Improvement: The Case of Teacher Tenure Reform in New York City. CALDER Working Paper No. 115