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Teacher labor markets
Research has consistently shown that teacher quality is distributed very unevenly among schools to the clear disadvantage of minority students and those from low-income families. Using information on teaching spells in North Carolina, the authors examine the potential for using salary differentials to overcome this pattern. They conclude that salary differentials are a far less effective tool for retaining teachers with strong pre-service qualifications than for retaining other teachers in schools with high proportions of minority students. Consequently, large salary differences would be needed to level the playing field when schools are segregated. This conclusion reflects the finding that teachers with stronger qualifications are both more responsive to the racial and socioeconomic mix of a school's students and less responsive to salary than are their less well qualified counterparts when making decisions about remaining in their current school, moving to another school or district, or leaving the teaching profession.
Citation: Charles Clotfelter, Helen Ladd, Jacob Vigdor (2010). Teacher Mobility, School Segregation, and Pay-Based Policies to Level the Playing Field. CALDER Working Paper No. 44
Search theory suggests early career job changes lead to better matches that benefit both workers and firms, but this may not hold true in teacher labor markets characterized by salary rigidities, barriers to entry, and substantial differences in working conditions. Education policy makers are particularly concerned that teacher turnover may have adverse effects on the quality of instruction in schools serving predominantly disadvantaged children. Although these schools experience higher turnover, on average, than other schools, the impact on the quality of instruction depends on whether more productive teachers are more likely to depart. In Texas, the availability of matched panel data of students and teachers enables the isolation of teachers' contributions to achievement. Teachers who remain in their school tend to outperform those who leave, particularly those who exit Texas public schools entirely. This gap is larger for schools serving mainly low income students— evidence that high turnover is not nearly as damaging as many suggest.
Citation: Eric Hanushek, Steven Rivkin (2010). Constrained Job Matching: Does Teacher Job Search Harm Disadvantaged Urban Schools?. CALDER Working Paper No. 42
This study uses data from North Carolina to examine the extent to which survey based perceptions of working conditions are predictive of policy-relevant outcomes, independent of other school characteristics such as the demographic mix of the school's students. Working conditions emerge as highly predictive of teachers' stated intentions to remain in or leave their schools, with leadership emerging as the most salient dimension. Teachers' perceptions of their working conditions are also predictive of one-year actual departure rates and student achievement, but the predictive power isfar lower. These weaker findings for actual outcome measures help to highlight both the strengths and weaknesses of using teacher survey data for understanding outcomes of policy interest.
Citation: Helen Ladd (2009). Teachers' Perceptions of their Working Conditions: How Predictive of Policy-Relevant Outcomes?. CALDER Working Paper No. 33
This study presents a generalization to the standard career concerns model and applies it to the public teacher labor market. The model predicts optimal teacher effort levels decline with both tenure at a school and experience, all things being equal. Using administrative data from North Carolina spanning 14 school years through 2008, the author finds significant changes in teacher sick leave consistent with the generalized career concerns model. By exploiting exogenous variation in career concerns in the form of principal turnover, the author shows the observed behaviors cannot be due to the endogeneity of teacher mobility decisions alone. Also examined are the effects of career concerns incentives breaking down. There is evidence suggestive of teacher shirking, and evidence on an unobservable measure of effort taken from the Schools and Staffing Survey that corroborates findings from observable teacher absence behavior. In sum,teachers exert considerable discretion over their own effort levels in response to these incentives.This has important policy implications.
Citation: Michael Hansen (2009). How Career Concerns Influence Public Workers' Effort: Evidence from the Teacher Labor Market. CALDER Working Paper No. 40
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
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
The central question for this study is how the quality of the teachers and principals in high poverty schools in North Carolina compares to that in the schools serving more advantaged students. A related question is why these differences emerge. The consistency of the patterns across many measures of qualifications for both teachers and principals leaves no doubt that students in the high poverty schools are served by school personnel with lower qualifications than those in the lower poverty schools. Moreover, in many cases the differences are large. Additional evidence documents that the differences largely reflect predictable outcomes of the labor market for teachers and principals.
Citation: Charles Clotfelter, Helen Ladd, Jacob Vigdor, Justin Wheeler (2007). High Poverty Schools and the Distribution of Teachers and Principals. CALDER Working Paper No. 1