Urban Legend?

A Dissenting View on Teacher Transfers

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints

To the Editor:

Antonio Cortese and F. Howard Nelson claim to have refuted my conclusion that the teacher-transfer provisions of collective bargaining agreements doom the lowest-income schools to hiring less-experienced and lower-paid teachers ("An Urban Legend—Literally," Commentary, Dec. 13, 2006).

Their analysis, however, misses the point about transfers within districts, which happen when teachers exercise seniority rights to move from higher- to lower-poverty schools. This happens regardless of the district’s poverty level. Teachers will transfer from higher- to lower-poverty schools even if the lowest-poverty schools are still very poor by national standards.

Poverty rates are relative, so I defined the highest-poverty schools (following researcher Marguerite Roza’s example) as those in the highest poverty quartile in their own district. The cutoff for the top quartile will vary from one district to another, but the effects are the same. In big-city districts, teacher salaries, on average, are nearly $3,000 lower in the highest-poverty schools.

Ms. Cortese and Mr. Nelson define high-poverty schools very differently, using a uniform national cutoff of 75 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. By this definition, half to virtually all of the schools in districts we have studied (such as Houston, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Denver, and Dallas) are high-poverty. Schools in the highest poverty quartile within those districts are from 87 percent to 100 percent free or reduced-price lunch. Teachers still use seniority-transfer rights to go to schools that, though less poor, are often still above 75 percent free or reduced-price lunch.

The authors can’t see the transfers inside big-city districts because they lump virtually all the schools into the high-poverty category. The vast majority of low-poverty schools in their analysis are not even in the same districts as the high-poverty schools. Thus, their comparisons of high- and low-poverty schools can’t tell us anything about the effects of within-district teacher transfers.

Ms. Cortese and Mr. Nelson also cite an earlier National Center for Education Statistics report as evidence that first-year teachers are no more prevalent in high-poverty schools than in low-poverty schools. But the NCES report uses the same definitions of high-poverty schools as the authors, and it does not claim to represent the distribution of teachers in any district. Thus, there is no warrant in either study for their claim that teacher-transfer provisions do no harm to the poorest children.

It is good that the American Federation of Teachers is examining the effects of its contracts, but it needs to look within districts and make sensible comparisons.

Paul T. Hill
Center on Reinventing Public Education
Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs
University of Washington
Seattle, Wash.

Vol. 26, Issue 18, Page 29

Published in Print: January 10, 2007, as Urban Legend?
Related Stories

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >