Research examining the behavior of teachers and administrators with the goal of developing policies to
attract and retain high-quality teachers and leaders, especially in low-performing schools
 Research Papers Minimize

Teacher Layoffs:  An Empirical Illustration of Seniority v. Measures of Effectiveness.  July 2010.  Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff.

Today, the financial imbalance in many school districts is so large that there is no alternative to teacher layoffs.  In nearly all school districts, layoffs are currently determined by some version of teacher seniority.  Yet, alternative approaches to personnel reductions may substantially reduce the harm to students from staff reductions relative to layoffs based on seniority.  This policy brief illustrates the differences in New York City public schools that would result when layoffs are determined by seniority in comparison to estimated teacher value-added for fourth and fifth grade teachers employing math and ELA student achievement. We find the differences between seniority and value-added based layoffs are larger and more persistent than we anticipated.  However, as a result of the limited applicability of teacher value-added measures to the full population of teachers as well as concerns about potential mis-measurement of effectiveness associated with using value-added measures even when available, neither seniority nor measures of value-added to student achievement should be the sole criterion determining layoffs.  But ignoring effectiveness measures completely as seniority-based systems do, is also problematic. Instead, the use of multiple measures of effectiveness for layoff decisions holds promise for softening the detrimental effect of layoffs. Policy Brief

Analyzing the Determinants of the Matching of Public School Teachers to Jobs:  Disentangling the Preferences of Teachers and Employers.  July 2010. Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff.

This paper develops an empirical approach for disentangling the range of factors that affect the hiring decisions of school officials and the job choices made by teachers.  As discussed in the paper, the framework typically employed to analyze teacher labor market models is inconsistent with relevant institutional features of teacher labor markets.  An alternative approach is developed based on a game-theoretic two-sided matching model of employer-employee job match and a method of simulated moments estimation strategy. This framework allows the authors to estimate how factors affect the choices of teachers and hiring authorities and how these choices interact to determine the equilibrium allocation of teachers across jobs.  Although the paper focuses on teacher labor markets, the issues raised and the empirical framework developed are applicable in other settings as well. Research Paper

The Effect of School Neighborhoods on Teacher Career Decisions. June 2010.  Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, Matthew Ronfeldt, and James Wyckoff.

A substantial body of research demonstrates that schools with large populations of poor, non-white and low-achieving students, on average, have more difficulty attracting and retaining teachers.  The neighborhoods in which schools are located may also affect the supply of teachers, but little research has assessed the extent to which differences in neighborhoods either affect teacher recruitment and retention or explain the observed relationship between school characteristics and teachers’ career choices.  This paper uses newly compiled data on the neighborhoods of all schools in New York City, linked to a unique dataset on teachers’ applications to transfer, in order to assess the effects of neighborhoods on teachers’ career decisions.  Overall, this study finds that while neighborhood characteristics matter somewhat to teachers in choosing where they would like to work, their influence is modest relative to teachers’ preferences to teach in schools serving relatively low proportions of black students and low achieving students.  Research Paper

Measure for Measure: The Relationship between Measures of Instructional Practice in Middle School Language Arts and Teachers' Value-Added Scores.   May 2010.  Pamela Grossman, Susanna Loeb, Julia Cohen, Karen Hammerness, James Wyckoff, Donald Boyd, and Hamilton Lankford.

Even as research has begun to document that teachers matter, there is less certainty about what attributes of teachers make the most difference in raising student achievement. Numerous studies have estimated the relationship between teachers' characteristics, such as work experience and academic performance and their value-added to student achievement; but, few have explored whether instructional practices predict student test score gains.  In this study, we ask what classroom practices, if any, differentiate teachers with high impact on student achievement in middle school English Language Arts from those with lower impact.  In so doing, the study also explores to what extent value-added measures signal differences in instructional quality.  Even with the small sample used in our analysis, we find consistent evidence that high value-added teachers have a different profile of instructional practices than do low value-added teachers.  Teachers in the fourth (top) quartile according to value-added scores score higher than second-quartile teachers on all 16 elements of instruction that we measured, and the differences are statistically significant for a subset of practices including explicit strategy instruction.  Research Paper

Teacher Preparation and Student Achievement. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, vol. 31, no. 4, pages 416-440, December 2009.  Donald Boyd, Pamela Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff. 

There are fierce debates over the best way to prepare teachers to improve outcomes for the students they teach.  Some argue that easing entry into teaching is necessary to attract strong candidates.  Others argue that investing in high quality teacher preparation will better serve our nation's children.  Even among those who believe that high quality preparation is important, there are sharp contrasts concerning the best approach.  Most agree, however, that we lack a strong research basis for understanding how to prepare teachers to meet the challenges of urban schools.  This study is a first step towards developing evidence to inform these debates, looking carefully at the ways in which teachers are prepared and the consequences of that preparation for pupil learning.  The research employs detailed data on New York City teachers, their preparation and the student achievement outcomes of their students.  Journal Article

The Role of Teacher Quality in Retention and Hiring:  Using Applications-to-Transfer to Uncover Preferences of Teachers and Schools.  November 2009.  Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, Mathew Ronfeldt, and James Wyckoff.  

Many large urban school districts are rethinking their personnel management strategies, often giving increased control to schools in the hiring of teachers, reducing, for example, the importance of seniority. Prior research on teacher transfers uses career history data, identifying the school in which a teacher teaches in each year.  Based on this data, it is unclear the extent to which the patterns are driven by teacher preferences or school preferences, since the matching of teachers to schools is a two-sided choice. In this paper we use applications-to-transfer data to examine separately which teachers apply for transfer and which get hired and, in so doing, differentiate teacher from employer preferences. We find that teachers with better pre-service qualifications (certification exam scores; college competitiveness) are more likely to apply for transfer, while teachers whose students demonstrate higher achievement growth are less likely. On the other hand, schools prefer to hire “higher quality” teachers across measures that signal quality. The results suggest not only that more effective teachers prefer to stay in their school, but that when given the opportunity schools are able to identify and hire the best candidates. Research Paper

Recruiting Effective Math Teachers, How Do Math Immersion Teachers Compare?:  Evidence from New York City.  September 2009.  Donald Boyd, Pamela Grossman, Karen Hammerness, R. Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, Mathew Ronfeldt, and James Wyckoff.

School districts employ a variety of strategies to recruit effective math teachers.  Some of these strategies include attempts to expand the pool of prospective teachers by recruiting teachers through alternative-route certification programs.  Even with the creation of an alternative certification route, New York City finds it difficult to recruit sufficient numbers of teachers with substantial math coursework or a math undergraduate major.  As a result, the New York City Teaching Fellows program was among the first to employ a math immersion component in the recruitment of math teachers.  Math Immersion is the single largest pathway for math teachers in New York City, yet little is known about the preparation its teachers receive or their relative effectiveness in improving student math achievement. This paper explores these questions.Research Paper

The Influence of School Administrators on Teacher Retention Decisions.  May 2009.  Donald Boyd, Pamela Grossman, Marsha Ing, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff.

When given the opportunity many teachers choose to leave schools serving poor, low-performing and non-white students. While a substantial research literature has documented this phenomenon, far less research effort has gone into understanding what features of the working conditions in these schools drive this relatively higher turnover rate. This paper explores the relationship between school contextual factors and teacher retention decisions in New York City. We find that measures of teachers’ perceptions of the school administration has by far the greatest influence on teacher-retention decisions. This effect of administration is consistent for both the first year teachers surveyed and for the full sample of New York City teachers, and is confirmed by a survey of teachers who have recently left teaching in New York CityResearch Paper

Surveying the Landscape of Teacher Education in New York City: Constrained Variation and the Challenge of Innovation. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis vol. 30, no. 4, pages 319-343, December 2008.  Donald Boyd, Pamela Grossman, Karen Hammerness, R. Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, Morva McDonald, Michelle Reininger, Mathew Ronfeldt, and James Wyckoff.

Teacher preparation is receiving increased scrutiny and criticism. However, there is surprising little information about how teachers are prepared for their careers. In this article, we describe the state of teacher education across many preparation programs serving New York City public schools. We explore the characteristics of programs that prepare teachers for New York City schools, including the orientation of programs, who enters these programs, who teaches in these programs, and what characterizes the core curriculum. Perhaps of greatest interest, we examine the variation across preparation programs. Counter to the belief that programs vary widely, we find the overall curriculum of teacher education to be more similar than different. We conclude with recommendations for what it might take to change the landscape of teacher education. Journal ArticleResearch Paper

Measuring Effect Sizes:  The Effect of Measurement Error.  June 2008.  Donald Boyd, Pamela Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff. 

In this paper we focus on two issues pertaining to how effect sizes are measured.  We argue that model coefficients should be compared to the standard deviation of gain scores, not the standard deviation of scores, in calculating most effect sizes.  Second, we develop a measure that accounts for test measurement error.  Since the standard deviation of observed scores in the denominator of the effect-size measure reflects measurement error as well as the dispersion in the true academic achievement of students, it overstates variability in achievement.  We apply these adjustements to student assessments in New York City and find that effect-size estimates based on the dispersion in gain scores net of test measurement error are four times larger than effect sizes typically measured.  We explore the implications for such an adjustment to the estimated effect sizes of teacher qualifications on student achievement.    Research Paper

The Narrowing Gap in New York City Teacher Qualifications and its Implications for Student Achievement in High-Poverty Schools. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management vol. 25, no. 4, pages 793-818, 2008.  Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, Jonah Rockoff, and James Wyckoff.

No Child Left Behind, state assessment-based accountability policies and new routes into teaching have all had profound effects on the labor market for teachers. In this research we explore how the distribution of teacher qualifications and student achievement in New York City have changed from 2000 through 2005 using data on teachers and students.   The paper examines the role that readily observed measures of teacher qualifications have on student achievement.  Journal Article, Research Paper, Policy Brief

The Impact of Assessment and Accountability on Teacher Recruitment and Retention:  Are There Unintended Consequences?   Public Finance Review vol. 36 no. 1, page 88-111, January 2008. Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff.

Has increased accountability for student test outcomes affected the turnover or distribution of teachers?  We explore this question within the context of pre-NCLB accountability in New York State when systematic testing of all students occurred only in 4th and 8th grade.   Using data on every teacher in New York State public elementary schools from 1994-95 through 2001-2002, we find that the turnover rate of fourth grade teachers decreased relative to teachers in other elementary grades since testing began. In addition, entering fourth grade teachers are less likely to be inexperienced teachers than those moving into other elementary school grades.  Journal Article

Who Leaves? Teacher Attrition and Student Achievement. September 2007. Donald Boyd, Pamela Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff.

Teacher attrition has attracted considerable attention as many federal, state and local policies intended to improve student outcomes focus on recruiting and retaining more qualified and effective teachers.  However, policy makers are often frustrated by the seeming high rates of attrition among teachers early in their careers.  This paper considers patterns of attrition and retention among teachers in New York City elementary and middle schools and explores the crucial question as to whether teachers who transfer among schools or leave teaching entirely are more or less effective than those who remain.  We also consider how teacher attrition may enhance or reduce the misdistribution of teacher quality by the race, income and achievement of   students in those schools.   Our findings raise questions about current retention and transfer policies. Research Paper

How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement.  Education Finance and Policy, Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring 2006. Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Pamela Grossman, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff. 

We are in the midst of what amounts to a national experiment in how best to attract, prepare, and retain teachers, particularly for high poverty urban schools. Using data on New York City students and their teachers in grades three through eight we assess the effects of pathways into teaching on the teacher workforce and student achievement. We consider wheter teachers entering through alternative certification routes alter the attributes of the teacher workdforce, how the achievement gains of the students of alternative route teachers compare to those of other teachers, and the relative retention of teachers across pathways.  Journal Article, Research Paper, Policy Brief.

Complex By Design: Investigating Pathways Into Teaching in New York City Schools.  Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 57, No. 2, March/April 2006.  Donald Boyd, Pamela Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, Nicholas Michelli, and Jim Wyckoff. 

New York City represents a microcosm of the changes that are shaking the very foundations of teacher education in this country.  In their efforts to find teachers for hard-to-staff schools by creating multiple pathways into teaching, districts from New York City to Los Angeles are in the midst of what amounts to a national experiment in how best to recruit, prepare, and retain teachers.  This article provides an overview of a research project that examines features of these different pathways into teaching in New York City schools and the impact of these features on where teachers teach, how long they remain in the classroom, and student achievement in reading and math as measure by value-added analyses.  This article provides both a conceptual framework for the study and a discussion of some of the methodological challenges involved in such research, including problems of selection bias, difficulties in documenting programmatic features, and challenges of estimating teacher effects on student achievement.  Journal Article.

Explaining the Short Careers of High-Achieving Teachers in Schools with Low-Performing Students. American Economic Review, May 2005, Vol. 95, No. 2. Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff.

This paper examines the decisions of elementary teachers in New York City to stay in the same school, transfer to another public school within NYC, transfer to a school outside NYC, or leave teaching altogether during the first five years of their careers. This study improves on existing research in that it examines how teachers’ transfer and quit behaviors are influenced by (i) interactions between teacher qualifications and school-level student achievement (ii) unobserved variation in teachers’ responses to school-level student attributes, and (iii) the distance from new teachers’ prior homes to their first jobs. Journal Article, Research Paper.

Improving Science Achievement: The Role of Teacher Workforce Policies. May 2005. Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff.

This paper examines the difficulty hard-to-staff and low-performing schools have in hiring and keeping high quality teachers. Students failing to achieve even minimal levels of educational achievement are most dependent on their teachers and schools for academic learning, yet they typically are taught by individuals with relatively weak and/or inadequate qualifications. This study explores what traditionally hard-to-staff and low-performing schools can do to attract and keep the quality workforce that will provide their students with the requisite schools and learning demanded by future employers and required by state and national standards. Research Paper.

The Draw of Home: How Teachers’ Preferences for Proximity Disadvantage Urban Schools.  Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Winter 2005, Vol. 24, No.1, 113-132.  Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff.

This paper presents striking findings regarding the little-understood spatial geography of teacher labor markets and the importance of school proximity and similarity in teachers’ decisions where to seek employment. In turn, the paper discusses the implications of these findings for urban schools as well as teacher recruitment and preparation policies.  Journal Article.

Initial Matches, Transfers, and Quits: Career Decisions and the Disparities in Average Teacher Qualifications Across Schools November 2002. Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff.

Using a unique dataset, this paper follows the careers of all NYS public school teachers over the previous 20 years.   It asks questions such as: What is the typical path of a teacher?  How do career paths differ across schools and across teachers having different characteristics?  How do career paths contribute to the observed distribution of teachers across schools?  The results of this study demonstrate the importance of the initial matching of teachers to schools and the importance of transfers in determining the distribution of teacher qualifications across schools, both within and between regions.  Quit behavior contributes to the systematic differences identified, but is of secondary importance.  Research Paper.

Teacher Sorting and the Plight of Urban Schools: A Descriptive Analysis. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis Spring 2002. Vol. 24, No. 1, 37-62. Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff.

This paper examines how average attributes of teachers vary exist across schools, identifies schools that have the least-qualified teachers and examines the distribution of these teachers over time; and explores how the distribution of teachers is affected by attrition, transfers and job-matching between teachers and schools at the start of their careers. Journal Article.

The Attributes and Career Paths of Principals: Implications for Improving Policy, March 2002. Frank C. Papa Jr., Hamilton Lankford, and James Wyckoff. Research Paper.


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