Study: Top teachers perform well after transfer

Top elementary teachers who transferred to low-performing schools under a bonus program boosted their students’ learning significantly,” reports Ed Week’s Stephen Sawchuk.  Middle school teachers who transferred did not produce gains, according to a Mathematica study of the federally financed Talent Transfer Initiative.

Most highly effective teachers turned down the transfers, notes Sawchuck.

 The top 20 percent of teachers in each district were identified using each district’s own “value added” measure.  They were offered a $20,000 bonus to switch, paid out over a two-year period. (Effective teachers already in those schools got $10,000).

Of 1,500 eligible teachers, only 81 decided to transfer to qualify for bonuses.

Tranferring teachers were more likely than colleagues to stay at their new schools during the two years when bonuses were paid. After that, they left at the same rate as other teachers.

Students in high-poverty, low-performing schools are much less likely to be taught by experienced and highly effective teachers, say advocates. But it’s not clear whether a teacher who’s effective with easy-to-teach students will be effective with high-risk students.

A different study last year also found teacher effectiveness is transferable, writes Sawchuk.

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  1. And, the REALLY interesting question is: why doesn’t bringing in top teachers help in middle school?

    The likely answer: the problems of middle schools are NOT primarily that of academic origin, but of tolerating a level of disruption that is hellish to work in (I formerly worked in an urban middle school – actually, 2 different ones). In a GOOD school, urban or suburban, disruption is NOT tolerated. Teachers are not interrogated about their referrals, and written up as “not understanding minority children” (translation – YOU are the problem, racist teacher!). The halls are clear of students, except for a FEW with passes.

    In a BAD school: students run freely through the school, cursing anyone trying to stop them, banging on doors to try to connect with other students, and threatening those who interfere with their actions.

    In those schools, students have been passed along (too often, because no teacher wants that disruptive student in their class one more year), without having gained the skills necessary to succeed. If a teacher grades fairly, and the student gets a “D” or “F”, he/she is brought down to the principal’s office for re-education (similar to Stalin’s Soviet Union). If that doesn’t persuade a teacher to re-consider their adherence to the truth, grades are MAGICALLY changed to passing – usually without notification of the teacher of record.

    Yes, I have seen all of the above. I have no doubt that such “educational” antics are responsible for the sorry condition of middle schools.

  2. I would think that it would be easier to help elementary school students make big gains because they haven’t had a chance to lose as much ground yet, so the teachers still have the skills/knowledge needed to help them. A third grader reading at a first grade level, for instance, needs to gain second and third grade skills over their third grade year. A good third grade teacher would probably know how to work on reading skills.

    Once students get to middle school, though, they already need to be proficient at reading and basic math. The best middle school history teachers, ones who know their material, make it interesting, engage their students, or meet whatever other criteria you want to set for ‘middle school history teacher’ are probably not well trained in teaching elementary reading, writing, and spelling. Yet, if students can’t read, write, or spell, they won’t be able to learn history (which probably includes both reading and writing about it). No matter how good the teacher is, they can’t do a lot of history or science teaching without the basics already being in place. Even if they did have the knowledge to teach the missing skills, I don’t know how they’d be able to teach literacy and also teach their subject well.

  3. I’m not at all surprised that teachers wouldn’t want to move. Why would people want to give up what they consider to be a good work environment for a bad one? Job satisfaction is about more than *just* dollars.

  4. Darren is absolutely correct. Of that 10,000 dollars, about 30-40% is lost to federal taxes.

    Depending on the family income, they may lose more than that…

    So, it’s not the terribly big money that is offered.