School & District Management

Principals Tend to Pick the Best Teachers, a Study Finds

By Debra Viadero — June 02, 2010 1 min read
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The use of “value-added” data to determine which teachers are good, and which aren’t, continues to be a hot topic in education. But, regardless of what you think about using student test scores to judge teachers’ performance, you have to admit that it would be interesting to know whether the teachers who rack up high value-added test scores tend to be the same teachers that principals hire, anyway.

That’s why this study highlighted in the latest edition of the National Council on Teacher Quality Bulletin caught my eye. In it, researchers Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb and colleagues mine some long-term data on 81,000 teachers in New York City schools to find out which teachers apply for transfers and which of those applicants get hired. They sorted teachers in terms of their licensing-exam scores, whether they graduated from a selective college, how many years of teaching experience they possessed, and their value-added scores—factors most of which have been linked in studies, in one way or another, to better student outcomes.

It turns out that teachers with impressive preservice qualifications in terms of exam scores and sheepskins from prestigious universities tend to be those who are most likely to want to jump ship. On the other hand, teachers who are judged to be effective based on their students’ test performance tend to be more satisfied to stick around a little longer.

When it comes to hiring, though, principals tend to choose teachers who are strong on all four counts—even when they have no idea what the teachers’ value-added scores might be.

“The results suggest not only that more-effective teachers prefer to stay in their schools but that when given the opportunity schools are able to identify and hire the best candidates,” the researchers conclude.

I think it also suggests that having a sixth sense about teachers should be part of the job description for principals.

The full text of the study can be downloaded for a fee from the National Bureau of Economic Research. It’s titled “The Role of Teacher Quality in Retention and Hiring: Using Applications-to-Transfer to Uncover Preferences of Teachers and Schools.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.