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
 The Distribution of Teachers Across Schools

Demographic trends and education policy choices in recent years have increased the need for schools to attract and retain high-quality elementary and secondary school teachers. This is particularly difficult for urban schools that, on average, have less qualified teachers compared to suburban and rural schools. More generally, the schools having relatively high concentrations of low performing students most often also have the teachers who are least qualified.  These patterns underscore the need for researchers and policymakers to better understand how a wide range of factors contribute to the sorting of teachers across schools and, in turn, disparities in student performance.  The papers below ask questions such as:

  • What is the typical career path of a teacher and how does this vary across teachers and schools?
  • What effect does the draw of home have on the distribution of teachers and their qualifications?
  • How do the paths contribute to the observed distribution of teachers across schools?
  • How do teachers’ quit and transfer decisions contribute to the gap in teacher quality across schools, particularly in large urban areas such as New York City?

“Our results demonstrate the importance of the initial matching of teachers to schools in determining the distribution of teacher qualifications across schools, both within regions and between regions, and the importance of transfers in the disparities within regions.  In both cases geography appears to play an important role to reduce the gap in teacher qualifications. We must focus on these features of teacher career paths.” 

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

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 

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. 24, 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 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, Policy Brief (forthcoming).

Explaining the Short Careers of High-Achieving Teachers in Schools with Low-Performing Students. American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings, May 2005.  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 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 • interactions between teacher qualifications and school-level student achievement; • unobserved variation in teachers’ responses to school-level student attributes; and • the distance from new teachers’ prior homes to their first jobs.  Research Paper, Policy Brief (forthcoming).

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, Policy Brief (forthcoming).

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 (i) examines how average attributes of teachers vary across schools, (ii) characterized the schools having the least-qualified teachers and examines the distribution of these teachers over time; and (iii) 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, Policy Brief (forthcoming).


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