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Olivia L. Chi

Olivia L. Chi, Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Ariel Tichnor-Wagner, Sidrah Baloch.

Much recent debate among policymakers and policy advocates focuses on whether states should reduce teacher licensure requirements to ease the burdens of recruiting high quality teachers to the workforce. We examine the effectiveness of individuals who entered the teacher workforce in Massachusetts during the pandemic by obtaining an emergency license, which requires only a bachelor’s degree. Our results show that, in 2021-22, newly hired emergency licensed teachers: 1) were largely rated as proficient (82%) in their performance evaluation ratings and 2) had similar measures of student test score growth as their traditionally licensed peers. However, we find suggestive evidence that emergency licensed teachers with no prior employment in Massachusetts public schools and no prior engagement with the teacher pipeline (i.e., enrollment in teacher preparation, attempting licensure exams) received lower performance ratings and had lower measures of student test score growth in English Language Arts. Taken together, these results encourage the creation of additional flexibility in licensure requirements for those who have demonstrated prior efforts to join the educator pipeline.

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Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Olivia L. Chi, Ariel Tichnor-Wagner, Sidrah Baloch.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted teacher candidates’ capacity to complete licensure requirements. In response, many states temporarily reduced professional entry requirements to prevent a pandemic-induced teacher shortage. Using mixed methods, we examine the role of the emergency teaching license in Massachusetts, which provided an opportunity for individuals to enter the public school teacher workforce with only a bachelor’s degree. Our results show that emergency licenses increased the supply of teachers in two ways by: 1) providing an entry point for individuals who previously wanted to become teachers but could not meet traditional licensure requirements and 2) expanding the pool of individuals interested in the profession. Among those teachers hired with an emergency license, we find that they were substantially more ethnoracially diverse than their peers with traditional licenses, and they overwhelmingly intend to obtain permanent licensure and remain in the profession. These results suggest that rethinking initial entry requirements may be an effective policy tool to increase the supply of teachers, particularly among teachers of color.

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Olivia L. Chi, Matthew A. Lenard.

Improving teacher selection is an important strategy for strengthening the quality of the teacher workforce. As districts adopt commercial teacher screening tools, evidence is needed to understand these tools’ predictive validity. We examine the relationship between Frontline Education’s TeacherFit instrument and newly hired teachers’ outcomes. We find that a one SD increase on an index of TeacherFit scores is associated with a 0.06 SD increase in evaluation scores. However, we also find evidence that teachers with higher TeacherFit scores are more likely to leave their hiring schools the following year. Our results suggest that TeacherFit is not necessarily a substitute for more rigorous screening processes that are conducted by human resources officials, such as those documented in recent studies.

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Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Olivia L. Chi, Alexis Orellana.

The unprecedented challenges of teaching during COVID-19 prompted fears of a mass exodus from the profession. We examine the extent to which these fears were realized using administrative records of Massachusetts teachers between 2015-16 and 2021-22. Relative to pre-pandemic levels, average turnover rates were similar going into the fall of 2020 but increased by 17 percent going into the fall of 2021. The fall 2021 increases were particularly high among newly hired teachers (31 percent increase), but were lower among Black and Hispanic/Latinx teachers (5 percent increases among both groups). Ethnoracial diversity of new hires increased during the pandemic, in part due to reduced professional licensure requirements. Together, these changes led to small increases in the overall ethnoracial diversity of Massachusetts teachers, but improvements to early-career retention will be needed to ensure long-term stability and diversity within the workforce.

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Olivia L. Chi.

State and local education agencies across the country are prioritizing the goal of diversifying the teacher workforce. To further understand the challenges of diversifying the teacher pipeline, I investigate race and gender dynamics between teachers and school-based administrators, who are key decision-makers in hiring, evaluating, and retaining teachers. I use longitudinal data from a large school district in the southeastern United States to examine the effects of race-congruence and gender-congruence between teachers and observers/administrators on teachers’ observation scores. Using models with two-way fixed effects, I find that teachers, on average, experience small positive increases in their scores from sharing race or gender with their observers, raising fairness concerns for teachers whose race or gender identities are not reflected by any of their raters.

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Matthew A. Kraft, John Papay, Olivia L. Chi.

We examine the dynamic nature of teacher skill development using panel data on principals’ subjective performance ratings of teachers. Past research on teacher productivity improvement has focused primarily on one important but narrow measure of performance: teachers’ value-added to student achievement on standardized tests. Unlike value-added, subjective performance ratings provide detailed information about specific skill dimensions and are available for the many teachers in non-tested grades and subjects. Using a within-teacher returns to experience framework, we find, on average, large and rapid improvements in teachers’ instructional practices throughout their first ten years on the job as well as substantial differences in improvement rates across individual teachers. We also document that subjective performance ratings contain important information about teacher effectiveness. In the district we study, principals appear to differentiate teacher performance throughout the full distribution instead of just in the tails. Furthermore, prior performance ratings and gains in these ratings provide additional information about teachers’ ability to improve test scores that is not captured by prior value-added scores. Taken together, our study provides new insights on teacher performance improvement and variation in teacher development across instructional skills and individual teachers.

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