Schools led by principals who promote professional development for teachers and set high expectations for academic achievement among students are more likely to retain its effective teaching staff, a new study has found. The study focused on middle schools in New York City broadens the context in which teacher effectiveness and student achievement is considered, researchers said.
“In recent years, researchers and policymakers have focused much of their attention on measuring and improving teacher effectiveness,” said lead author Matthew A Kraft, assistant professor at Brown University in the US.
“However, teachers do not work in a vacuum; their school’s climate can either enhance or undermine their ability to succeed with students,” said Kraft.
Researchers looked at teacher and student responses to a survey as well as student test scores, human resources data and school administrative records for 278 public middle schools for the years 2008 to 2012.
“Using annual school survey data allowed us to explore, for the first time, how changes in the quality of individual school climates were linked to corresponding changes in teacher turnover and student achievement over several years,” Kraft said.
The researchers examined changes over time in leadership and professional development, high academic expectations for students, teacher relationships and collaboration, and school safety and order.
They found robust relationships between increases in all four dimensions of school climate and decreases in teacher turnover, Kraft said, suggesting that improving the environment in which teachers work could play an important role in retaining effective teachers.
Kraft noted that the average turnover rate in New York City middle schools is 15 per cent. Out of every 100 middle schools teachers in New York City, only 85 return to teach in the same school the next year. Of those 15 that do not return, nine leave teaching in the city’s public schools altogether and six transfer to teach in another New York City public school.
The authors also found evidence that improving a school’s climate may help promote gains in student’s academic achievement.
Improvements in two dimensions—school safety and academic expectations—predicted faster growth in math test scores, according to Kraft.
“The degree to which students and teachers feel their school is a safe, orderly learning environment is of central importance for student achievement in the New York City middle schools we studied,” researchers said.
The findings replicate and extend previous research findings that schools with higher-quality school contexts have students who experience larger achievement gains, they said.
The study was published in the American Educational Research Journal.