Jason Grissom

Institution: Vanderbilt University


Francisco Arturo Santelli, Jason A. Grissom.

Research suggests that longer commute times can increase employee turnover probabilities by increasing job stress and reducing job attachment and embeddedness. Using administrative data from a midsized urban school district, we test whether teachers and school leaders with longer commute times are more likely to transfer schools or exit the school system. We find that transfer probability increases roughly monotonically through most of the commute time distribution. Teachers who commute 45 minutes or more to work are 10 percentage points more likely to transfer than another teacher in the same school commuting only 5 minutes. They are also 3 percentage points more likely to leave the district. Consistent with turnover patterns, we find that teachers with longer commute times are more likely to be absent from work. Their observation scores are also lower. These results suggest that schools may benefit from hiring teachers who live relatively close by, at least in the absence of supports or resources to compensate teachers with longer commutes. In contrast, we find no consistent evidence that principals’ or assistant principals’ likelihood of turning over, absence rates, or performance ratings are a function of their travel time from home to work.

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Jason A. Grissom, David S. Woo, Brendan Bartanen.

High rates of principal turnover nationally mean that school districts constantly are called on to recruit and select new principals. The importance of a school’s principal makes choosing candidates who will be effective paramount, yet we have little evidence linking information known to school districts at time of selection to principal’s future job performance. Using data from Tennessee, we test the degree to which observable information about novice principals from prior to entry, including qualifications, work history information, and effectiveness in prior roles, predicts practice ratings assigned to them in their initial years in the principalship. We find that educational attainment and years of experience in other jobs hold little predictive power. Performance ratings received as an assistant principal (AP) or teacher, however, do predict principal effectiveness. Moreover, APs who previously worked in schools with highly rated principals are more likely to be effective upon transitioning into the principalship.


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Jason A. Grissom, Jennifer D. Timmer, Jennifer L. Nelson, Richard S.L. Blissett.

We investigate the male–female gap in principal compensation in state and national data: detailed longitudinal personnel records from the state of Missouri and repeated cross-sections from the nationally representative Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). In both data sets, we estimate substantively important compensation gaps for school leaders. In Missouri, female principals make approximately $1,400 less annually than their male colleagues with similar characteristics leading the same school in different years. SASS analyses show that women make about $900 less than men nationally, on average. These gaps are only partially explained by sorting, career paths, and other labor supply-side mechanisms, suggesting that gender discrimination contributes to male–female pay differences in school leadership.

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Brendan Bartanen, Jason A. Grissom.

Exploiting variation from principal and teacher transitions over long administrative data panels in Missouri and Tennessee, we estimate the effects of principal race on the hiring and turnover of racially diverse teachers. Evidence from the two states is strikingly similar. Black principals increase the probability that a newly hired teacher is Black by 5–7 percentage points. This result appears to be partially driven by principals hiring from within their networks of educators with whom they have worked before. Black principals also decrease Black teacher mobility, reducing the probability that a Black teacher changes schools by 2–5 percentage points. Increases in Black teacher hiring and reductions in turnover mean that a change from a White to a Black principal increases the fraction of Black teachers working in a school by about 3 percentage points, on average, increasing exposure of students to Black teachers. Further evidence suggests that assignment to a Black teacher increases the math achievement of Black students, though the presence of a Black principal appears to have positive impacts on Black students’ math achievement that is not explained by assignment to Black teachers.

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