- Recruiting highly effective teachers into low-performing schools is one strategy for raising student achievement. But how are the “sending” schools affected when they lose some of their best teachers?
- The effects on student achievement are negative, but small, according to researchers from Vanderbilt University and the University of Kentucky. Their new study focuses on the impact of this policy in Tennessee’s Innovation Zones (iZones), a statewide effort to turnaround struggling schools.
- Focusing on iZones in Memphis, Nashville and Chattanooga, the researchers looked at student performance in the grade levels in which the teachers left. They saw small decreases in standardized test scores in reading, science and math, although the drop in math achievement was not statistically significant. Because the effect on the receiving schools has been positive, as explained in past reports, the researchers concluded that the strategy overall is successful, especially if the sending schools can quickly recover from the small dip in achievement.
School leaders don’t want to lose their most effective teachers, but schools are also part of systems that are working to address persistent achievement gaps. Gary Henry, the director of graduate studies at Vanderbilt University and one of the authors of the study, said that “all school leaders should recognize that additional resources for teachers’ compensation may be needed in the lowest-performing schools.” He added that increasing incentives for teachers to move to such schools is “leveling the playing field so that all students get to learn from the most effective teachers.”
In the study, the researchers identified three reasons why the turnover in teachers is likely to lead to lower student performance. First, it’s possible that the teachers who leave are being replaced with less-effective or less-experienced ones. Second, teacher turnover, especially in the middle of a school year, can lead to disruption in classroom routines that were helping students to learn. And finally, turnover can lead to the loss of a teacher leader and interrupt relationships between teachers and other staff members that allowed for collaboration and planning that benefited students.
Henry added that district and school administrators can minimize some of these effects by being more intentional about the teachers they recruit and taking time to develop them. Providing extra support to new teachers through mentorship and opportunities to collaborate with more experienced teachers can make the transition smoother.