Teachers who leave

Teachers who quit low-income city schools aren’t the best and the brightest, concludes a new study of a Texas district. Education Week reports:

Rather than measure teachers’ quality by whether they had passed certification exams or had earned advanced degrees, the researchers looked at the test-score gains students made from year to year on state mathematics tests to determine which teachers were effective.

For the most part, they found, the teachers who left inner-city schools between the 1989-90 school year and the 2001-02 school year were no better at raising their students%u2019 scores than those who stayed behind. In some cases, the analysis showed, the departing teachers may have even been worse.

However, departing teachers were replaced by brand-new teachers, who were less effective in the classroom because of their inexperience.

As a result, the researchers said, disadvantaged inner-city schools are still left with a disproportionate share of lower-quality teachers, even though most are novices who might one day turn out to be good at their jobs.

Teachers reach peak effectiveness in their fourth year on the job, the study concluded.

About Joanne


  1. Miller Smith says:

    Did they control for the practice of giving the new teachers the most difficult of classes? The teachers that leave us in PG County, MD are new teachers under 3 years in the classroom. They all get the worst kids for many years.

    My was my first year daily schedule of classes in PG at High Point High School in 1989: 1) Biology (made up of SPED and parolees, I kid you not, 35 kids), 2) ESOL math (none spoke English and I didn’t know spanish, Vietnamese, and Urdu. 30 kids), 3) Algebra II (good kids, 35 kids), 4) 11th grade English (most good, some bad, 30 kids) 5) Earth Science (9th graders who were off the wall, 35 kids). This was all in one day. I floated to a new room for each class. Was was hired for the biology position (my cert area).

    This year at my new high school we are doing similar stuff to all the new science teachers. All the new science teachers have the worst kids and all the floating.

    I wonder why they quit…

  2. I just read the NBER working paper and wanted to mention a correction to Joanne’s report (it’s not her fault – Ed Week didnt report this well).

    She suggests teachers who leave are “not the best and brightest”. However, this isn’t exactly true. What they did find was that teachers had *exceptionally* poor years right before they left. That is, the year they left was not only below average among all teachers, but it was below their performance during the previous year.
    To quote the original paper:

    “This strongly suggests that those who exit are not systematically worse in a longer term sense but only in the year in question.”

    This is consistent with Miller Smith’s interpretation. It’s probably the case that many of these teachers get stuck with an exceptionally difficult group of students and decide to move on to greener pastures.