Two Years Later: How COVID-19 Has Shaped the Teacher Workforce (with Andrew Bacher-Hicks and Alexis Orellana). Forthcoming in Educational Researcher.

Working paper: EdWorkingPapers.

Summary presentations and policy reports available at WEPC.

Media coverage: Boston25, WBUR (April 2022), FiveThirtyEight, Time, WBUR (October 2021)

Abstract: 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 2015–2016 and 2021–2022. Relative to prepandemic levels, average turnover rates were similar going into the fall of 2020 but increased by 17% (from 15.0% to 17.5%) going into the fall of 2021. The fall 2021 increases were particularly high among newly hired teachers (31% increase) but were lower among Black and Hispanic/Latinx teachers (5% increases among both groups). Gaps in turnover rates between schools serving higher and lower concentrations of economically disadvantaged students narrowed during the first 18 months of the pandemic. The same holds true for gaps in turnover between schools serving higher and lower shares of Black and Hispanic/Latinx students. Together, these findings highlight important differences in teachers’ responses to the pandemic across subgroups and the need to improve early-career retention to ensure long-term stability within the teacher workforce.

Can a Commercial Screening Tool Help Select Better Teachers? (with Matthew A. Lenard). Forthcoming in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. 

Also available as WEPC Working Paper 2022-4 and EdWorkingPaper No. 22-648

Abstract: 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. 

Momentary Affective Experiences of Teachers Serving Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities in Self-contained Settings (with Kristabel Stark and Elizabeth Bettini). Forthcoming in Remedial and Special Education.

Abstract: Emotions play an important role in the work of teachers serving students with emotional and behavioral disabilities (EBD), yet little is known about teachers’ momentary affective experiences. In this study, we collected 710 surveys regarding momentary affect from 14 teachers of students with EBD. We used descriptive analysis and variance decomposition to examine the frequency, intensity, and variability of these experiences. We then tested a series of models to explore how specific professional activities relate to teachers’ momentary affect. We found that teachers experienced positive affect more frequently and intensely than negative affect, and that large proportions of the variation in positive and negative affect can be attributed to variation within individual teachers across timepoints. For these teachers, engaging in discipline was significantly associated with higher negative affect, whereas engaging in instructional activities was associated with higher positive affect. We discuss implications for researchers and practitioners. 

Also available as WEPC Working Paper 2021-1 and EdWorkingPaper No. 21-470. 

Abstract: 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.

Teacher Skill Development: Evidence from Performance Ratings by Principals (with Matthew A. Kraft and John P. Papay). 2020. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 39(2): 315-347. 

Also available as EdWorkingPaper No. 19-97.

Abstract: 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 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 10 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.