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The original rationale for teacher tenure was to curb political influence in teacher employment decisions and limit political patronage. It was later viewed as a means of protecting the civil rights of teachers, including opponents to U.S. involvement in World War I and supporters of school desegregation in the 1960s.3 From a labor market standpoint, the increased job security associated with teacher tenure can have two opposing effects. First, by reducing the risk of termination, it will make the job of teaching more attractive and should increase the quality of candidates who are willing to become teachers at any given wage. Second, by lessening the chance of dismissal, it reduces the incentive of teachers to maximize their effort, which in turn would reduce their productivity. Similarly, if the likelihood of being dismissed for poor performance is reduced by tenure protections, less qualified candidates may be attracted to the teaching profession. As part of a broader school reform movement, states began to re-assess their tenure laws round the start of the 21st century. Georgia dropped due-process rights for teachers hired after July 1, 2000, but reversed course three years later. Idaho also had a short-lived departure from tenure, with the legislature abolishing teacher tenure in 2011 only to have the decision reversed by voters the next year. Three other states have had more enduring repeals of tenure. Florida abolished tenure protections for new teachers beginning in July 2011 (more on this below). In 2013, North Carolina passed a law which phases out tenure over a five-year period. In 2014, Kansas effectively repealed teacher tenure by narrowing the definition a teacher, thereby removing due process procedures for classroom teachers.4,5 While outright repeals of teacher tenure have been limited to a handful of states, many states have limited teacher tenure protections in recent years by expanding the length of the probationary period or introducing performance requirements for the receipt of tenure. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of states using student achievement as a criterion for tenure rose five-fold, from four states to 20.6 Similarly, from 2011-2014 eight states increased the length of the probationary period before teachers can receive tenure.7 Despite the recent legislative activity around teacher tenure, there is relatively little empirical evidence on the effects of teacher tenure, either on the labor market decisions of prospective teachers, the productivity of teachers in the classroom or most importantly, the impact on educational outcomes for students.8 What little evidence currently exists is largely based on modifications to existing tenure systems rather than instances where tenure has been eliminated. Jacob studied the impact of loosening the constraints for dismissing probationary teachers in Chicago.9 In 2004 the Chicago Public Schools agreed to a new collective bargaining contract with the Chicago Teachers Union that allowed principals to dismiss probationary teachers for any reason and without the documentation and due-process hearings typically required for teacher dismissals. Jacob found the elimination of job protections for early-career teachers reduced teacher absences by about 10 percent and lowered the incidence of frequent absences by 25 percent. Most of the observed change in teacher absenteeism was a result of changes in the composition of teachers, but there was also evidence of modest incentive effects for probationary teachers. Similar to Jacob, Loeb, Miller and Wyckoff analyzed a change in an existing tenure system, rather than a wholesale elimination of tenure. In New York City, principals are required to make tenure recommendations to the superintendent, and historically, nearly all eligible teachers (94 percent) were approved for tenure. Beginning in 2009–2010, New York City increased the information available to principals on the performance of their probationary teachers and simultaneously required them to provide justification for granting tenure, extending a teacher’s probationary period, or denying tenure. The district also gave principals explicit guidance for teachers whose measured performance was particularly strong or weak. While the changes did little to increase the proportion of teachers who were denied tenure, they did lead to a dramatic increase in the fraction of teachers who had their probationary periods extended, particularly among low-performing and less qualified teachers. The policy change also lead to increases in voluntary attrition for teachers whose probationary periods were extended and for the small share of teachers who were denied tenure. Among extended teachers, those with lower principal ratings were more likely to leave. Extended teachers who chose to leave their schools were less effective, as measured by principal ratings and value-added estimates, than new teachers who were likely to replace them. While the evidence presented by Loeb, Miller, and Wyckoff suggests that with the right incentives and information principals could use pre-tenure flexibility to filter or counsel out low-performing teachers, that may not occur in all circumstances. In North Carolina, Chingos found that “principals are not using the four-year [pre-tenure] period to identify and remove their lowest performers.”10 Following Louisiana’s tenure reform of 2012, which required that teachers be rated “highly effective” in five out of six years to gain tenure, Strunk, Barrett, and Lincove found that departures rose among teachers eligible for retirement and among teachers in the lowest-performing schools, but it is not clear if or how these exits changed teacher quality across the state.11 We contribute to this literature by studying the short-run consequences of Florida’s experience with tenure reform in 2011 — the “Student Success Act” (SB 736, or henceforth, SSA), focusing on whether and where student achievement changed in the years immediately after 2011. how we determine whether ssa affected student outcomes It is difficult to identify how a policy like SSA shapes individual student achievement. Ideally, researchers would like to compare students whose teachers were affected by SSA to unaffected students who were otherwise very similar, and who made it into the “unaffected” group for reasons unrelated to student achievement.
For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit https://www.brookings.edu/research/did-tenure-reform-in-florida-affect-student-test-scores/
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