Luis Rodriguez, New York University – Teacher Retention

On New York University Week:  Teacher retention is a big issue in education.

Luis Rodriguez, assistant professor of education leadership, looks into how teacher evaluation systems play a role in turnover.

Luis A. Rodriguez is Assistant Professor of Education Leadership in the Department of Administration, Leadership, and Technology at NYU. Dr. Rodriguez’s research primarily investigates how education reform affects the K-12 teacher workforce. He is particularly interested in the identification of policies, programs, and practices capable of sustaining an equitable distribution of diverse and highly qualified teachers supporting students from traditionally disadvantaged backgrounds. In his ongoing research projects, Dr. Rodriguez examines the influence of tenure and evaluation reform on teacher retention, performance, and the incorporation of feedback into instructional practice. He has received national recognition and support for his work in these areas, including awards and grants from the National Academy of Education/Spencer Doctoral Fellowship Program, the Albert Shanker Institute, and the Association for Education Finance and Policy.

Dr. Rodriguez is currently a Research Affiliate with the Tennessee Education Research Alliance (TERA), the Research Alliance for New York City Schools (RANYCS), the Institute for Human Development and Social Change (IHDSC), and the NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools. He received his doctorate in K–12 Education Leadership and Policy Studies with a specialization in Quantitative Methods from Vanderbilt University, and holds a bachelor’s in Economics from Swarthmore College.

Teacher Retention

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What’s the best way to tell if a teacher is actually effective? How do you best support or determine to replace a teacher who is less effective? These are two questions that have been on the mind of education reformers and others seeking to improve America’s education system.

Teacher evaluation systems are formal processes K-12 schools use to review teachers’ performance and effectiveness in the classroom. We’re increasingly learning that these systems influence teacher turnover patterns.

Over the past decade, several states implemented systematic changes to their teacher evaluation systems—these reforms were largely made to compete for federal aid through the Race to the Top grant competition administered under the Obama Administration. In 2011, Tennessee changed its evaluation system to evaluate teachers based on a mix of student test results and rubric-directed classroom observations by certified, trained observers. Teachers also received direct feedback as well as various levels of consequences and incentives based on their overall performance rating, such as eligibility for tenure, bonus compensation, and targeted professional development and coaching.

My colleagues and I studied how teacher turnover patterns changed in conjunction with Tennessee’s reformed evaluation system. We found that the rollout of a statewide evaluation system was associated with increased turnover. And in most cases, the teachers departing schools—and sometimes the profession itself—were the lowest performers. We also found that the turnover was concentrated in low-performing schools and schools in urban areas.

This means that a well-constructed evaluation system can weed out the least effective teachers in schools that are in most need of high-quality teaching – making room for more high performing teachers. But that’s only a part of the solution. We note that it’s also crucial for states and districts to invest in policies and programs that support the retention and development of these high-quality teachers.

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