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While it is generally understood that defined benefit pension systems concentrate benefits on career teachers and impose costs on mobile teachers, there has been very little analysis of the magnitude of these effects. The authors develop a measure of implicit redistribution of pension wealth among teachers at varying ages of separation. Compared to a neutral system, often about half of an entering cohort's net pension wealth is redistributed to teachers who separate in their fifties from those who separate earlier. There is some variation across six state systems. This implies large costs for interstate mobility. Estimates show teachers who split a thirty-year career between two pension plans often lose over half their net pension wealth compared to teachers who complete a career in a single system. Plan options that permit purchases of service years mitigate few or none of these losses. It is difficult to explain these patterns of costs and benefits on efficiency grounds. More likely explanations include the relative influence of senior versus junior educators in interest group politics and a coordination problem between states.
Citation: Robert Costrell, Michael Podgursky (2009). Distribution of Benefits in Teacher Retirement Systems and Their Implications for Mobility. CALDER Working Paper No. 39
This paper uses data from New York City to estimate how the characteristics of school principals relate to school performance, as measured by students' standardized exam scores and other outcomes. There is little evidence of any relationship between school performance and principal education and pre-principal work experience, but some evidence that experience as an assistant principal at the principal's current school is associated with higher performance among inexperienced principals. There is a positive relationship between principal experience and school performance, particularly for math test scores and student absences. The experience profile is especially steep over the first few years of principal experience. Finally, there is mixed evidence on the relationship between formal principal training and professional development programs and school performance, with the caveat that the selection and assignment of New York City principals participating in these programs make it hard to isolate their effects. The positive returns to principal experience suggest that policies which cause principals to leave their posts early (e.g., via early retirement or a move into district administration) will be costly, and the tendency for less-advantaged schools to be run by less experienced principals could exacerbate educational inequality.
When given the opportunity, many teachers choose to leave schools serving poor, low-performing, and minority students. While substantial research has documented this phenomenon, far less effort has gone into understanding what features of the working conditions in these schools drive this relatively high turnover rate. This paper explores the relationship between school contextual factors and teacher retention decisions in New York City. The methodological approach separates the effects of teacher characteristics from school characteristics by modeling the relationship between the assessments of school contextual factors by one set of teachers and the turnover decisions by other teachers within the same school. Teachers' perceptions of the school administration have by far the greatest influence on teacher-retention decisions. This effect of administration is consistent for first-year teachers and the full sample of teachers and is confirmed by a survey of teachers who have recently left teaching in New York City.
Citation: Donald Boyd, Pamela Grossman, Marsha Ing, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, James Wyckoff (2009). The Influence of School Administrators on Teacher Retention Decisions. CALDER Working Paper No. 25
Using detailed data from North Carolina, this paper examines the frequency, incidence, and consequences of teacher absences in public schools, as well as the impact of a policy designed to reduce absences. The incidence of teacher absences is regressive: when schools are ranked by the fraction of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch, schools in the poorest quartile averaged almost one extra sick day per teacher than schools in the highest income quartile, and schools with persistently high rates of teacher absence were much more likely to serve low-income than high-income students. In regression models incorporating teacher fixed effects, absences are associated with lower student achievement in elementary grades. There is evidence that the demand for discretionary absences is price-elastic. Our estimates suggest that a policy intervention that simultaneously raised teacher base salaries and broadened financial penalties for absences could both raise teachers' expected income and lower districts' expected costs.
Citation: Charles Clotfelter, Helen Ladd, Jacob Vigdor (2009). Are Teacher Absences Worth Worrying about in the U.S.?. CALDER Working Paper No. 24
Teacher attrition has attracted considerable attention as federal, state and local policies- intended to improve student outcomes, increasingly focus on recruiting and retaining more qualified and effective teachers. But policy makers are often frustrated by the seemingly high rates of attrition among teachers earlier on in their careers. This paper analyzes attrition patterns among teachers in New York City elementary and middle schools and explores whether teachers who transfer among schools, or leave teaching entirely, are more or less effective than those who remain. Findings show first-year teachers who are less effective in improving student math scores have higher attrition rates than do more effective teachers. This raises important questions about current retention and transfer policies.
Citation: Donald Boyd, Pamela Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, James Wyckoff (2009). Who Leaves? Teacher Attrition and Student Achievement. CALDER Working Paper No. 23
Since the 1996/97 school year, North Carolina has awarded bonuses of up to $1,500 to teachers in schools that exhibit test score gains above certain thresholds. This article reviews the details of the bonus program, describes patterns of differences between schools that qualify for bonuses of differing amounts, and presents basic data to address the question of whether the bonus program has improved student achievement, or has led to a narrowing of racial or socioeconomic achievement gaps. There is some evidence to suggest an improvement in overall test scores, particularly in math, but less evidence to suggest that achievement gaps have narrowed.
This paper is the first to systematically document the relationship between individual teacher performance incentives and student achievement using United States data. We combine data from the National Education Longitudinal Survey with original survey data regarding the use of teacher incentives. We find that test scores are higher in schools offering individual financial incentives for good performance. Moreover, the relationship between the presence of merit pay and student test scores is strongest in schools that may have the least parental oversight. The association between teacher incentives and student performance could be due to better schools adopting teacher incentives or to teacher incentives eliciting more effort from teachers.
Citation: David Figlio, Lawrence Kenny (2007). Individual Teacher Incentives And Student Performance. CALDER Working Paper No. 8
Defined Benefit pension plans often generate odd time patterns of benefits. One typical pattern exhibits low accrual in early years, accelerating in mid-late years, followed by dramatic decline, or even negative returns in years that are relatively young for retirement. We consider four states for specific analysis: Arkansas, Missouri, California and Massachusetts. There are interesting variations among these states' formulas, which affect the incentive to retire early. We identify key factors in the defined benefit formulas that drive such patterns and likely consequences for employee behavior. We examine the efficiency and equity consequences of these systems and lessons that might be drawn for pension reform.
Citation: Robert Costrell, Michael Podgursky (2007). Efficiency and Equity in the Time Pattern of Teacher Pension Benefits. CALDER Working Paper No. 6
This paper examines late career mobility and retirement decisions for a cohort of mid-career Missouri public school teachers. The rate of accrual of traditional defined benefit pension systems is highly nonlinear and back-loaded with most of the gain occurring in the final years prior to retirement. Also, these pension systems have rules that introduce kinks or discontinuities in the rate of accrual after 30 years. This paper explores the effect of these pension rules on retirement patterns. Missouri permits teachers to continue teaching part-time while collecting benefits. Teachers can also retire from one pension system and begin teaching in another. The paper examines both types of behavior.
Citation: Michael Podgursky, Mark Ehlert (2007). Teacher Pensions and Retirement Behavior: How Teacher Pension Rules Affect Behavior, Mobility, and Retirement. CALDER Working Paper No. 5