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How Does School Accountability Affect Teachers?

When schools receive low grades on accountability systems, you would expect them to experience an exodus of current teachers or difficulty attracting new ones. A study of New York City schools finds the opposite: The schools that received poor accountability grades decreased teacher turnover and increased teacher quality.

The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) launched its’ current accountability system in November 2007, at which time schools began receiving progress reports with letter grades meant to capture school performance relative to peer schools. Prior literature suggests that accountability measures such as these have hurt low-performing schools by accelerating turnover. However, Rebecca Dizon-Ross’ analysis of the NYCDOE policy change in the National Bureau of Economic Research working paper titled How Does School Accountability Affect Teachers? Evidence from New York City reveals different results.

Ross, a developmental economist at the University of Chicago, finds that schools with lower accountability grades had a decrease in turnover of about 3 percentage points and attracted joiners (new teachers) who had 0.9 standard deviation greater contribution to student learning than schools reaching higher grades. She hypothesizes that teachers want to be part of the improvement process and value the principal’s engagement in such schools.