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Educator labor markets
Explaining the productivity paradox—the phenomenon where an introduction of information and communication technology (ICT) does not lead to improvements in labor productivity—is difficult, as changes in technology often coincide with adjustments to working hours and substitution of labor. I conduct a cluster-randomized trial in India to investigate the effects of a program that provides teachers with continuous training and materials, encouraging them to blend their instruction with high-quality videos. Teaching hours, teacher-to-student assignments, and the curriculum are held constant. Eleven months after its launch, I document negative effects on student learning in grades 9 and 10 in mathematics, and no effects in science. I also find detrimental effects on instructional quality, instructional practices, and student perceptions and attitudes towards mathematics and science. These findings suggest adjustment costs can serve as one explanation for the paradox.
Novice teachers improve substantially in their first years on the job, but we know remarkably little about the nature of this skill development. Using data from Tennessee, we leverage a feature of the classroom observation protocol that asks school administrators to identify an item on which the teacher should focus their improvement efforts. This “area of refinement” overcomes a key measurement challenge endemic to inferring from classroom observation scores the development of specific teaching skills. We show that administrators disproportionately identify two teaching skills when observing novice teachers: classroom management and presenting content. Struggling with classroom management, in particular, is linked to high rates of novice teacher attrition. Among those who remain, we observe subsequent improvement in these skills.
We document that recent generations of elementary school teachers are significantly more effective in raising student test scores than those from earlier generations. Measuring teachers’ value-added for Black and white students separately, the improvements in teaching for Black students are significantly larger than those seen for white students. The race-specific improvements in teacher quality are driven by white teachers. Analyses of mechanisms suggest that changing teachers’ biases may be one potential channel. Our results suggest reason for optimism since these teacher quality differences should lead to improved student learning and a narrowing of the Black-white test score gap over time.
With a goal of contextualizing teacher job dissatisfaction during the first full school year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we contrast teachers’ experiences to the decade and a half leading up to the pandemic. We draw on nationally representative data from the Schools and Staffing Survey and National Teacher and Principal Survey from the 2003-04 to 2020-21 school years. Through descriptive and regression analysis, we show that (1) teacher dissatisfaction has gradually been increasing over time, but did not decrease sharply in the 2020-21 school year, (2) levels of dissatisfaction during the pandemic were not equal across subpopulations of teachers or over time, and (3) positive working conditions consistently predicted lower job dissatisfaction, including in the 2020-21 school year.
Research shows that teachers seek out jobs close to home, but previous studies have been unable to test whether proximity to home is related to retention in the teaching profession. We leverage a unique dataset from Teach For America (TFA) linking individuals’ preferred teaching locations, actual teaching locations, and years in teaching for 7 years after entering the profession. By controlling for a detailed set of background, preference, and teaching assignment variables through a matched fixed effects design, we find that individuals who were assigned to a TFA region in their home state taught, on average, for .15 years longer than those who were not assigned to teach in their home state. This effect is strongest for teachers of color and those from a low-income background. Being assigned to teach in one’s home state is associated with .36 more years in teaching for those from low-income backgrounds and .47 more years in teaching for teachers of color. Both sub-groups are approximately 8 percentage points more likely to stay in teaching for 7 or more years if assigned to their home state. Overall, this study provides evidence of a positive home state effect on teacher retention. Our results lend support for policies and programs that recruit from or nudge teachers toward teaching in their home states, particularly through alternative certification pathways, and as a means to increase teacher diversity.
Amid heightened concerns of teacher shortages, we document the role of principals in shaping teachers’ labor market decisions. Using teacher transfer applications from a large urban school district, we find that teachers are most likely to seek transfer away from schools with less-experienced principals and weaker leadership. The qualities of principals that attract applicants are survey reports of strong leadership, applicant-principal demographic congruence, and especially having worked with the principal previously. Ultimately, schools with high rates of teacher transfer seeking and exit receive few applications per teacher vacancy. These schools are likely to have shallow applicant pools and may need district support with recruitment in the short term, with the longer-term goal of developing leaders who retain teachers.
Teacher turnover is a perennial concern that became more salient during the COVID-19 pandemic as teacher-reported intentions to leave teaching escalated. The extent to which these teacher reports may translate into actual turnover remains an open question—especially given the pandemic context. Using unique survey data from teachers in 35 districts in Michigan linked to statewide administrative data, we examine the extent to which teacher-reported intentions are predictive of actually leaving. We measure behavior one, two, and three years following reported intent. We find intent is a significant predictor of turnover and becomes increasingly predictive over time. We also find organizational commitment and school organizational conditions are important factors in teachers’ intent and, to a lesser degree, actual turnover behavior.
Stagnating teacher salaries and the widening gap between public school teachers and similar workers have led to growing concerns that teachers will seek out additional employment—possibly impacting their instructional practice in the process. Using data from the Schools and Staffing Survey and the National Teacher and Principal Survey from 1994–2021, we show that teacher multiple jobholding has been remarkably stable over time. When examining the predictors of multiple jobholding, we find a high degree of variation across the timing, focus, and setting of teachers’ additional work. Using regression analysis, we show that teachers who work an additional job have lower turnover rates, with the exception of teachers who work outside of school, who leave teaching at higher rates.
The US teaching force remains disproportionately white while the student body grows more diverse. It is therefore important to understand how and under what conditions white teachers learn racial competency. This study applies a mixed-methods approach to investigate the hypothesis that Black peers improve white teachers’ effectiveness when teaching Black students. The quantitative portion of this study relies on longitudinal data from North Carolina to show that having a Black same-grade peer significantly improves the achievement and reduces the suspension rates of white teachers’ Black students. These effects are persistent over time and largest for novice teachers. Qualitative evidence from open-ended interviews of North Carolina public school teachers reaffirms these findings. Broadly, our findings suggest that the positive impact of Black teachers’ ability to successfully teach Black students is not limited to their direct interaction with Black students but is augmented by spillover effects on early-career white teachers, likely through peer learning.
Panel or grouped data are often used to allow for unobserved individual heterogeneity in econometric models via fixed effects. In this paper, we discuss identification of a panel data model in which the unobserved heterogeneity both enters additively and interacts with treatment variables. We present identification and estimation methods for parameters of interest in this model under both strict and weak exogeneity assumptions. The key identification insight is that other periods' treatment variables are instruments for the unobserved fixed effects. We apply our proposed estimator to matched student-teacher data used to estimate value-added models of teacher quality. We show that the common assumption that the return to unobserved teacher quality is the same for all students is rejected by the data. We also present evidence that No Child Left Behind-era school accountability increased the effectiveness of teacher quality for lower performing students.