An Urban Legend—Literally
Myths About Teacher Transfers and Collective Bargaining
For years, many educators and policymakers have voiced concern that a disproportionate number of inexperienced and less-qualified teachers work in urban, high-poverty schools. Some have argued that collectively bargained agreements give senior teachers greater transfer rights. The Hoover Institution’s Terry M. Moe, for example, asserts that “hard evidence or no, there are compelling reasons for thinking that transfer rights should have profoundly negative effects on the schools.” Transfer rights, he says, “give senior teachers much more latitude in choosing where to teach, and they can be expected to use it to leave … schools filled with disadvantaged kids.” “In districts with transfer rules,” he concludes, “disadvantaged schools should find themselves burdened with even more inexperienced teachers than they otherwise would.”
Likewise, the researcher Paul T. Hill argues that “teacher preferences dictate the assignment of teachers across schools within a district. Teacher preferences are usually honored according to seniority, frequently backed up by labor contracts. The most senior … teachers very often receive their preference to be assigned to schools with the fewest teaching challenges. The greenest teachers … are generally assigned to schools that are struggling.”
But are these assertions correct? In “The Impact of Collective Bargaining on Teacher Transfer Rates in Urban High-Poverty Schools,” our research data provide a clear answer: No. Such false assumptions distract from the debate that America needs to have about how to improve schools that serve children...
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