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How Context Matters in High-Need Schools: The Effects of Teachers’ Working Conditions on Their Professional Satisfaction and Their Students’ Achievement

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Background/Context Educational policy makers have begun to recognize the challenges posed by teacher turnover. Schools and students pay a price when new teachers leave the profession after only 2 or 3 years, just when they have acquired valuable teaching experience. Persistent turnover also disrupts efforts to build a strong organizational culture and to sustain coordinated instructional programs throughout the school. Retaining effective teachers is a particular challenge for schools that serve high proportions of low-income and minority students. Although some interpret these turnover patterns as evidence of teachers’ discontent with their students, recent large-scale quantitative studies provide evidence that teachers choose to leave schools with poor work environments and that these conditions are most common in schools that minority and low-income students typically attend. Thus, mounting evidence suggests that the seeming relationship between student demographics and teacher turnover is driven not by teachers’ responses to their students, but by the conditions in which they must teach and their students are obliged to learn. Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study We build on this body of work by further examining how working conditions predict both teachers’ job satisfaction and their career plans. We use a broad conception of the context of teachers’ work, paying attention not only to narrowly defined working conditions but also to the interpersonal and organizational contexts in which teachers work. We also extend Ladd's analysis describing the relationship between the work context and student achievement. Advancing our understanding of this relationship is particularly important, given the increasing emphasis legislators place on evidence of student achievement when evaluating education policy. Specifically, we ask three research questions: (1) Do the conditions of work in Massachusetts public schools affect teachers’ satisfaction with their jobs and their career plans? (2) Are schools with better conditions of work more successful in raising student performance than schools with less supportive working conditions? (3) If the conditions of work are important, what elements of the work environment matter the most? Research Design In this article, we combine a statewide survey of school working conditions (MassTeLLS) with demographic and student achievement data from Massachusetts. We examine three primary outcomes: teacher satisfaction, teacher career intentions, and student achievement growth. From different items on the MassTeLLS, we construct a set of nine key elements that reflect the broad-based conditions in which teachers work. We fit standard regression models that describe the relationship between each outcome and both overall conditions of work and each element separately, modeling this relationship according to the properties of our outcome variables. Findings/Results We found that measures of the school environment explain away much of the apparent relationship between teacher satisfaction and student demographic characteristics. The conditions in which teachers work matter a great deal to them and, ultimately, to their students. Teachers are more satisfied and plan to stay longer in schools that have a positive work context, independent of the school's student demographic characteristics. Furthermore, although a wide range of working conditions matter to teachers, the specific elements of the work environment that matter the most to teachers are not narrowly conceived working conditions such as clean and well-maintained facilities or access to modern instructional technology. Instead, it is the social conditions—the school's culture, the principal's leadership, and relationships among colleagues—that predominate in predicting teachers’ job satisfaction and career plans. More important, providing a supportive context in which teachers can work appears to contribute to improved student achievement. We found that favorable conditions of work predict higher rates of student academic growth, even when we compare schools serving demographically similar groups of students. Conclusions/Recommendations In short, we found that the conditions of teachers’ work matter a great deal. These results align with a growing body of work examining the organizational characteristics of the schools in which teachers work. Together, these studies suggest strongly that the high turnover rates of teachers in schools with substantial populations of low-income and minority students are driven largely by teachers fleeing the dysfunctional and unsupportive work environments in the schools to which low-income and minority students are most likely to be assigned. If public education is to provide effective teachers for all students, then the schools those students attend must become places that support effective teaching and learning across all classrooms.
Content may be subject to copyright.
We are indebted to the Ford Foundation for funding this research, to Eric Hirsch of the New
Teacher Center and Beverly Miyares of the Massachusetts Teachers Association for granting us
access to the MassTeLLS data, and to our colleague, Ann Mantil, for her contribution to our
analysis.
How context matters in high-need schools: The effects of teachers’ working conditions on
their professional satisfaction and their students’ achievement
Susan Moore Johnson
Matthew A. Kraft
John P. Papay
Project on the Next Generation of Teachers
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Suggested Citation:
Johnson, S.M., Kraft, M.A., & Papay, J.P. (2012). How context matters in high-need schools:
The effects of teachers’ working conditions on their professional satisfaction and their students’
achievement. Teachers College Record, 114(10), 1-39.
Link to Publishers Version:
http://www.tcrecord.org/content.asp?contentid=16685
Abstract
Background/Context:
Educational policymakers have begun to recognize the challenges posed by teacher turnover.
Schools and students pay a price when new teachers leave the profession after only two or three
years, just when they have acquired valuable teaching experience. Persistent turnover also
disrupts efforts to build a strong organizational culture and to sustain coordinated instructional
programs throughout the school. Retaining effective teachers is a particular challenge for schools
that serve high proportions of low-income and minority students. Although some interpret these
turnover patterns as evidence of teachers’ discontent with their students, recent large-scale
quantitative studies provide evidence that teachers choose to leave schools with poor work
environments, and that these conditions are most common in schools that minority and low-
income students typically attend (Boyd et al., 2011; Ladd, 2009 & 2011; Borman & Dowling,
2008; Loeb, Darling-Hammond & Luczak, 2005). Thus, mounting evidence suggests that the
seeming relationship between student demographics and teacher turnover is driven, not by
teachers’ responses to their students, but by the conditions in which they must teach and their
students are obliged to learn.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study:
We build on this body of work by further examining how working conditions predict both
teachers’ job satisfaction and their career plans. We use a broad conception of the context of
teachers’ work, paying attention not only to narrowly defined working conditions, but also to the
interpersonal and organizational contexts in which teachers work. We also extend Ladd’s (2009)
analysis describing the relationship between the work context and student achievement.
Advancing our understanding of this relationship is particularly important, given the increasing
emphasis legislators place on evidence of student achievement when evaluating education policy.
Specifically, we ask three research questions: (i) Do the conditions of work in Massachusetts
public schools affect teachers’ satisfaction with their jobs and their career plans? (ii) Are schools
with better conditions of work more successful in raising student performance than schools with
less supportive working conditions? (iii) If the conditions of work are important, what elements
of the work environment matter the most?
Research Design:
In this paper, we combine a statewide survey of school working conditions (Mass TeLLS) with
demographic and student achievement data from Massachusetts. We examine three primary
outcomes: teacher satisfaction, teacher career intentions, and student achievement growth. From
different items on the Mass TeLLS, we construct a set of nine key elements that reflect the
broad-based conditions in which teachers work. We fit standard regression models that describe
the relationship between each outcome and both overall conditions of work and each element
separately, modeling this relationship according to the properties of our outcome variables.
Findings/Results:
We find that measures of the school environment explain away much of the apparent relationship
between teacher satisfaction and student demographic characteristics. The conditions in which
teachers work matter a great deal to them and, ultimately, to their students. Teachers are more
satisfied and plan to stay longer in schools that have a positive work context, independent of the
school’s student demographic characteristics. Furthermore, although a wide range of working
conditions matter to teachers, the specific elements of the work environment that matter the most
to teachers are not narrowly conceived working conditions such as clean and well-maintained
facilities or access to modern instructional technology. Instead, it is the social conditionsthe
school’s culture, the principal’s leadership, and relationships among colleagues—that
predominate in predicting teachers’ job satisfaction and career plans. More importantly,
providing a supportive context in which teachers can work appears to contribute to improved
student achievement. We find that favorable conditions of work predict higher rates of student
academic growth, even when we compare schools serving demographically similar groups of
students.
Conclusions/Recommendations:
In short, we find that the conditions of teachers’ work matter a great deal. These results align
with a growing body of work examining the organizational characteristics of the schools in
which teachers work (Boyd et al., 2011; Ladd, 2011). Together, these studies suggest strongly
that the high turnover rates of teachers in schools with substantial populations of low-income and
minority students are driven largely by teachers fleeing the dysfunctional and unsupportive work
environments in the schools to which low-income and minority students are most likely to be
assigned. If public education is to provide effective teachers for all students, then the schools
those students attend must become places that support effective teaching and learning across all
classrooms.
Executive Summary
Throughout the past decade of school reformfrom the No Child Left Behind Act of
2001 to the Race to the Top competition of 2010policymakers focused attention on teachers,
especially those in low-performing schools. Many state and district officials sought to recruit
only the most promising teachers and to retain only the most effective ones, thereby building
instructional capacity and eliminating the disparity in teachers’ effectiveness in schools serving
students with the greatest need. However, district and school administrators quickly discovered
that there was no guarantee that promising teachers would stay once they were hired. In
particularly, teachers steadily left schools in high-minority, high-poverty communities to work in
schools in whiter, higher-income communities. Thus, the very schools that most needed effective
teachers had the greatest difficulty attracting and retaining them.
Schools and students pay a price when early-career teachers leave their high-need schools
after two or three years, just when they have acquired valuable teaching experience. It becomes
impossible for schools with ongoing turnover to build instructional capacity and to ensure that
students in all classrooms have effective teachers. Also, persistent turnover in a school’s teaching
staff disrupts efforts to build a strong organizational culture, making it difficult to develop and
sustain coordinated instructional programs throughout the school.
Researchers differ in how they explain the transfer and exit patterns that create hard-to-
staff schools. Some who analyze large data sets interpret these turnover patterns as evidence of
teachers’ discontent with their low-income or minority students; in other words, teachers are
choosing to leave their students rather than their schools. An alternative explanation is that
teachers who leave high-poverty, high-minority schools reject the dysfunctional contexts in
which they work, rather than the students they teach.
Using a 2008 working conditions survey given to all Massachusetts teachers, we
construct measures of nine different elements of the school working environment. We estimate
the relationship between our working conditions measures and several outcomes, including
teachers’ satisfaction, their career intentions, and school-wide achievement growth reported by
the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
We confirm recent findings that teachers choose to leave schools with poor work
environments, and that these conditions are most common in schools that minority and low-
income students typically attend. In short, we find that the conditions of teachers’ work matter a
great deal. Teachers who teach in favorable work environments report that they are more
satisfied and less likely to plan to transfer or leave the profession than their peers in schools with
less favorable conditions, even after controlling for student demographics and other school and
teacher characteristics. In fact, differences in the work context account for much of the apparent
relationship between student demographics and teacher turnover.
These results align with a growing body of work examining the organizational
characteristics of the schools in which teachers work. Together, these studies suggest strongly
that the high turnover rates of teachers in schools with substantial populations of low-income and
minority students are driven largely by teachers fleeing the dysfunctional and unsupportive work
environments in the schools to which low-income and minority students are most likely to be
assigned.
Importantly, the context of work appears to matter not only for the adults, but also for
their students. When comparing schools with similar student demographics and past test
performance, those with better work environments for teachers show greater student achievement
growth. Thus, policymakers who want to retain effective teachers and improve student
performance, particularly in schools that are traditionally hard to staff, should pay close attention
to the school context as teachers experience it.
We conclude that a range of working conditions matter to teachers, but the most
importantthose that both help retain teachers in low-income, high-minority schools and make
it possible for their students to achieveare the ones that shape the social context of teaching
and learning. These are not conventional working conditions such as facilities, school resources,
or planning time, but elements like the school culture, the principal’s leadership, and the
relationships with their colleagues. It is surely important to have safe facilities, adequate
resources, and sufficient time for preparation, but if teachers are to achieve success with their
studentsparticularly low-income and high-minority students who rely most on the school for
their learningthey also must be able to count on their colleagues, their principal, and the
organizational culture of the school to make success possible.
What we know about school practice suggests these three elements interact and are
interdependent, a conclusion that is supported by the strong correlations among these measures.
School culture is developed, enacted, and supported by both the principal and teachers. The
principal can expect the school to be an orderly place for teaching and learning, but without
teachers doing their part, it will be one that is run by rules, rather than shaped and sustained by
norms. Teachers’ collegial interactions are made possible by a principal who encourages them to
work together, ensures that they have time to do so, and brokers their relationships. Yet, unless
the school culture encourages everyone to share what they know, the best practices of expert
teachers may never reach beyond their individual classrooms. A principal may hold the most
formal authority in a school, but without the day-to-day support of teachers, that authority will
fall far short of what it takes to truly turn a school around.
1
How context matters in high-need schools: The effects of teachers’ working conditions on
their professional satisfaction and their students’ achievement
Introduction
Throughout the past decade of school reformfrom the No Child Left Behind Act of
2001 to the Race to the Top competition of 2010policymakers focused attention on teachers,
especially those in low-performing schools. Did schools serving high-poverty, high-minority
communities get their fair share of highly-qualified teachers? What knowledge, experience, and
skills did these teachers bring to their students? What success did they have in raising students’
test scores?
This attention to teachers and what they might contribute to students’ learning grew out
of several convincing studies that identified the teacher as the most important school-level factor
in students’ achievement. The contribution of teachers was shown to be especially important for
low-income students, who tend to have fewer learning supports outside of school. Also,
researchers found that the effectiveness of teachers varies widely, even within the same school
(Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005; McCaffrey, Lockwood, Koretz, & Hamilton, 2004; Rockoff,
2004). In response to these widely discussed findings, many state and district officials sought to
recruit only the most promising teachers and to retain only the most effective ones, thereby
building instructional capacity and eliminating the disparity in teachers’ effectiveness in schools
serving students with the greatest need.
However, district and school administrators quickly discovered that there was no
guarantee that promising teachers would stay once they were hired. Moving through what
Richard Ingersoll (2001) dubbed the “revolving door,” early-career teachers steadily left schools
in high-minority, high-poverty communities to work in schools in whiter, higher-income
communities, or to take jobs outside of education. This pattern of teachers’ exodus from low-
2
income to high-income schools is documented in both large quantitative and small qualitative
studies (Boyd et al., 2007; Boyd et al., 2005; Hanushek, Kain, & Rivkin, 2004; Johnson et al.,
2004; Leukens et al., 2004). Thus, the very schools that most needed effective teachers had the
greatest difficulty attracting and retaining them.
Schools and students pay a price when early-career teachers leave their high-need schools
after two or three years, just when they have acquired valuable teaching experience (Ingersoll &
Smith, 2003; Neild et al., 2003). Researchers agree that first-year teachers are, on average, less
effective than their more experienced colleagues (Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2006; Rivkin,
Hanushek, & Kain, 2005; Rockoff, 2004). When an experienced teacher leaves a school,
particularly a school serving low-income, high-minority student populations, she will likely be
replaced by a first-year teacher who is substantially less effective. Thus it becomes impossible
for schools with ongoing turnover to build instructional capacity and to ensure that students in all
classrooms have effective teachers. Also, persistent turnover in a school’s teaching staff disrupts
efforts to build a strong organizational culture, making it difficult to develop and sustain
coordinated instructional programs throughout the school.
Researchers differ in how they explain the transfers and exits that create hard-to-staff
schools. Some who analyze large data sets interpret these turnover patterns as evidence of
teachers’ discontent with their low-income or minority students (see Borman & Dowling, 2008).
For example, Hanushek, Kain, and Rivkin (2004) show that student demographics are more
important to teachers’ transfer decisions than salary differences across districts. They interpret
this to mean that teachers choose to leave their students rather than their schools.
An alternative explanation is that teachers who leave high-poverty, high-minority schools
reject the dysfunctional contexts in which they work, rather than the students they teach. (Boyd
3
et al., 2011; Allensworth et al., 2009; Buckley et al., 2004; Johnson & Birkeland, 2003). Recent
case studies and media reports portray high-poverty, high-minority schools that are not hard to
staff, but actually attract and retain good teachers, suggesting that those schools provide the
conditions and supports that teachers need to succeed with their studentswhoever those
students may be (Dillon, 2010; Chenowith, 2009; Ferguson et al., 2009; Chenowith, 2007;
Johnson & Birkeland, 2003).
Recent large-scale quantitative studies provide further evidence that teachers choose to
leave schools with poor work environments, and that these conditions are most common in
schools that minority and low-income students typically attend (Boyd et al., 2011; Ladd, 2009 &
2011; Borman & Dowling, 2008; Loeb, Darling-Hammond & Luczak, 2005). Thus, mounting
evidence suggests that the seeming relationship between student demographics and teacher
turnover is driven, not by teachers’ responses to their students, but by the conditions in which
they must teach and their students are obliged to learn.
Using data on teachers’ job satisfaction, career intentions, and the conditions of work in
Massachusetts schools, we confirm these recent findings. We find that measures of the school
environment explain away much of the apparent relationship between teacher satisfaction and
student demographic characteristics. The conditions in which teachers work matter a great deal
to them and, ultimately, to their students. Teachers are more satisfied and plan to stay longer in
schools that have a positive work context, independent of the school’s student demographic
characteristics. Furthermore, although a wide range of working conditions matter to teachers, the
specific elements of the work environment that matter the most to teachers are not narrowly
conceived “working conditions” such as clean and well-maintained facilities or access to modern
instructional technology. Instead, it is the social conditions—the school’s culture, the principal’s
4
leadership, and relationships among colleagues—that predominate in predicting teachers’ job
satisfaction and career plans. As Bryk and his colleagues have documented, improving these
social conditions involves building relational trust between teachers and school leaders and
engaging teachers in co-constructing the social context of their work (Bryk & Schneider, 2002;
Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Luppescu, & Easton, 2010).
More importantly, providing a supportive context in which teachers can work appears to
contribute to improved student achievement. Like Ladd (2009), we find that favorable conditions
of work predict students’ academic growth, even when we compare schools serving
demographically similar groups of students. Thus, policymakers who want to retain effective
teachers and improve student performance, particularly in schools that are traditionally hard to
staff, should pay close attention to the school context as teachers experience it.
In the next section, we explore the concept of the teacher’s workplace, which informs our
study, and then highlight several key studies that have broadened the conversation about the
importance of the work context for teachers. We go on to describe the Massachusetts datasets
that we use, our key measures of the conditions of work, and our analytic strategy. Finally, we
present our results and conclude with a discussion of our findings.
The Teacher’s Workplace
Despite growing recognition about the importance of working conditions, researchers
have only begun to understand how different elements of the workplace affect teachers’ ability to
teach well, their sense of self-efficacy, their satisfaction with their role and assignment, and their
willingness to stay in their school and in the profession. In 1990, Johnson proposed a
comprehensive framework for analyzing the teacher’s workplace. Its components ranged from
the physical teaching environment (e.g. safety and comfort) to economic factors (e.g., pay and
5
job security), to assignment structures (e.g. workload and supervision) to cultural and social
elements (e.g., strength of the organizational culture and characteristics of colleagues and
students). Interviews with 115 teachers revealed how interdependent these many factors are in
determining individuals’ success and satisfaction.
Not surprisingly, those who would increase students’ learning by reforming the teacher’s
workplace typically focus on factors that can be readily manipulated, such as pay, class size, or
job security. However, many features of the teachers’ workplace remain beyond the reach of
collective bargaining, legislation, and administrative rule-making. These are the components of
the social context of schooling, which significantly affect efforts to improve schools and school
outcomes for children (Bryk & Schneider, 2002; Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Luppescu, &
Easton, 2010). During a decade of work in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Bryk et al. have
examined various role relationships within the school “teachers with students, teachers with
other teachers, teachers with parents and with their school principal” (2010, p. 20). They
conclude that the degree of “relational trust” in these day-to-day relationships is crucial, and they
document “the powerful impact that the quality of social exchanges can have on a school’s
capacity to improve” (2010, p. 133).
Clearly, any meaningful analysis of teachers’ working conditions must recognize the full
range and interdependence of the factors that define a teacher’s workplace, from the concrete and
transactional (e.g., pay, workload, contractual responsibilities) to the social and transformative
(e.g., interactions with colleagues and administrators, organizational culture). There is
convincing evidence, not only that teachers’ ability to deliver effective instruction is deeply
affected by the context in which they work, but also that this context may vary greatly from
school to school and district to district.
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The Role of Work Context in Teacher Turnover
Recent findings about working conditions in schools have begun to reshape our
understanding of the causes of teacher turnover. In a comprehensive review of the literature,
Borman and Dowling (2008) find that teacher demographic characteristics, teacher
qualifications, school organizational characteristics, school resources, and school student body
characteristics are all related to teacher attrition. They argue that “the characteristics of teachers’
work conditions are more salient for predicting attrition than previously noted in the literature”
(p. 398). However, disentangling the relative contributions of student and school characteristics
is challenging. Horng (2009) explicitly attempts to distinguish among these possible
determinants of turnover by using a survey that asks teachers their preferences for different types
of hypothetical schools with different sets of demographic characteristics, working conditions,
and salaries. She finds that working conditions particularly administrative support, school
facilities, and class size are more important to teachers than salary and much more important
than student demographics. The advantage of this study is that Horng can examine the trade-offs
that teachers report among these different factors. However, she can only measure the
preferences that teachers express on a survey, not the working conditions that they actually
experience or the decisions they eventually make.
In two recent studies, Boyd and his colleagues (2011) and Ladd (2011) combine
information from surveys about teachers’ working conditions with data about their career plans.
The researchers find that, in addition to salaries and benefits, working conditions substantially
influence teachers’ career plans. According to Boyd et al., working conditions are important
predictors of New York City teachers decisions to change schools or leave the profession, even
after accounting for differences in student demographic characteristics across schools. In
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particular, they suggest that school administration is the most important determinant of teachers’
career decisions. Similarly, using state-wide data from North Carolina, Ladd (2011) finds strong
evidence that working conditions, particularly the quality of a school’s leadership, are related to
teachers’ stated career intentions.
These studies guide our work in two ways. First, Boyd et al. (2011) recognize the
potential challenge that arises when teachers report on their own working conditions: dissatisfied
teachers who intend to leave a school may be more likely to report worse working conditions
than teachers who plan to stay. To account for this potential bias, Boyd et al. use the survey
responses of one group of teachers to predict the outcomes of another group within the same
school. We use a similar approach. Second, Ladd finds that teachers’ stated intentions are very
good measures of actual turnover patterns in schools. Because data from Massachusetts do not
allow us to link teachers’ survey responses to their actual career decisions, we rely on their stated
intentions, assured by Ladd’s work that self-reported intentions are, in fact, strong indicators of
teachers’ actual decisions.
This growing body of literature suggests that the work context matters to teachers;
however, we know of only one study that has explored how the conditions of work in American
public schools are related to the academic performance of students who attend those schools.
Ladd (2009) examines the relationship between working conditions and student achievement in
elementary schools, as evidenced by school-level value-added scores. She finds that working
conditions predict school-level value-added scores in mathematics, and to a lesser degree in
reading, above and beyond the variation explained by school-level student and teacher
demographic characteristics. Of the five working conditions that Ladd examines, school
8
leadership again emerges as the most important predictor of achievement in mathematics, while
teachers’ ratings of school facilities have the strongest relationship with reading achievement.
We build on this body of work by further examining how working conditions predict both
teachers’ job satisfaction and their career plans. We use a broad conception of the context of
teachers’ work, paying attention not only to narrowly defined working conditions, but also to the
interpersonal and organizational contexts in which teachers work. We also extend Ladd’s
analysis describing the relationship between the work context and student achievement.
Advancing our understanding of this relationship is particularly important, given the increasing
emphasis legislators place on evidence of student achievement when evaluating education policy.
We use data from Massachusetts, a state very different from North Carolina (which Ladd
studies) and New York City (where Boyd et al. conduct their research). Massachusetts has a
high-performing school system that ranks at the very top of the nation in educational outcomes.
In 2009, Massachusetts students ranked first nationally in the National Assessment of
Educational Progress tests in grades 4, 8, and 12 in both reading and mathematics. Students in
North Carolina and New York City do not perform nearly as well. Also, of course, New York
City is a single urban district, while our data come from the 291 urban, suburban, and rural
districts across the state. Finally, the context of teachers’ work statewide is substantially different
because Massachusetts teachers, like those in New York City, are highly unionized and bargain
collectively about their wages, hours, and working conditions, while state law prohibits
collective bargaining in North Carolina. Specifically, we ask three research questions:
i) Do the conditions of work in Massachusetts public schools affect teachers’
satisfaction with their jobs and their career plans?
9
ii) Are schools with better conditions of work more successful in raising student
performance than schools with less supportive working conditions?
iii) If the conditions of work are important, what elements of the work environment
matter the most?
Data and Methodology
Data Sources
In this paper, we combine a statewide survey of school working conditions with
demographic and student achievement data from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary
and Secondary Education (DESE). In March 2008 a coalition of education organizations (the
DESE, state-level teachers unions, administrators associations, and school boards association)
partnered with Eric Hirsch of the New Teacher Center to administer the Massachusetts Teaching,
Learning and Leading Survey (Mass TeLLS) to all K-12 public school teachers and
administrators.1 Mass TeLLS consists of 87 multiple choice or Likert-scale questions designed
to capture detailed information about how Massachusetts educators view teaching and learning
conditions in schools. The survey also includes questions about basic demographic information,
teachers’ satisfaction, and teachers’ career intentions. Forty-six percent of all educators in the
state completed the survey. Although teachers’ individual responses are anonymous, we can link
each response to the school where the teacher worked. Therefore, we can combine these data
with a rich set of school-level information from the Massachusetts DESE.
Sample
Our sample consists of classroom teachers and other school-based education
professionals, such as guidance counselors and school psychologists, working in Massachusetts
public schools. For simplicity, we refer to all of these professional, non-administrative school
10
employees as “teachers.” We exclude school administrators and all individuals working in early
learning centers and juvenile detention facilities. We further restrict the sample to teachers
working in schools where at least 40% of the faculty responded to the survey and for which there
are data from at least five teachers. Finally, we exclude those teachers who did not complete all
of the Mass TeLLS questions that we used to create our key working conditions measures. These
restrictions yield a sample of 25,135 teachers, compared to just over 70,000 teachers state-wide,
teaching in 1,142 schools, or 61% of all Massachusetts K-12 public schools. In Table 1, we
compare selected characteristics of the teachers and schools included in our sample with other
Massachusetts teachers and schools. On nearly every observable characteristic, teachers and
schools in our sample look very similar to those who are not included. These data suggest that
our final sample is broadly representative of teachers and schools across Massachusetts.
INSERT TABLE 1 ABOUT HERE
Outcomes: Teacher Satisfaction, Career Intentions, and Student Achievement
We examine three primary outcomes: teacher satisfaction, teacher career intentions, and
student achievement growth. We construct the first two teacher-level outcomes using self-
reported data from the Mass TeLLS. Teachers responded to the question, “Overall, my school is
a good place to work and learn” (Q9.5a), using a five-point Likert scale that ranged from
strongly disagree to strongly agree. We standardize the responses so that a one-point difference
reflects a one standard deviation difference in teacher satisfaction (SATISFACTIONi).
Second, we develop a polychotomous outcome that captures teachers’ stated career
intentions (INTENTIONi). On the survey, teachers selected from six possible responses to the
question, “Which BEST DESCRIBES your future intentions for your professional career?
(Q9.6a). We group these responses into three separate categories: we code teachers who planned
11
to continue teaching at their school as “stayers” (INTENTIONi=0), teachers who planned to
remain in teaching but leave their school as “movers” (INTENTIONi=1), and teachers who
planned to leave classroom teaching as “leavers” (INTENTIONi=2) regardless of whether or not
they intended to stay in the field of education.
We are also interested in understanding how conditions of work affect students’ learning.
Our third outcome addresses this question directly, using the state’s preferred measure of growth
in student achievement, the Student Growth Percentile (SGP), which measures the degree to
which students made gains on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS)
tests relative to peers with similar test score histories. We construct our measure by standardizing
the two-year average SGP for each school over the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years
(
j
SGP
).2
In the top panel of Table 2, we present descriptive statistics for our three outcomes. We
include averages of our standardized satisfaction measure, teachers’ stated career intentions, and
standardized school-wide SGP. To help interpret the satisfaction measure, we also include the
percentage of teachers who strongly agree that their school is a good place to work and learn. In
this table, we highlight the differences in schools’ average characteristics between those with the
lowest proportion of low-income or minority students (bottom quintile in statewide distribution)
and those with the highest proportion (top quintile). We find that, in general, Massachusetts
teachers are satisfied with their schools: 77% agree that their schools are good places to work
and learn (41% strongly agree) and 83% plan to remain in their school. However, teachers are
less satisfied working at, and more likely to report that they plan to leave, schools with higher
percentages of low-income and minority students. For example, 53% of teachers in the lowest
poverty schools strongly agree that their school is a good place to work, compared to just 32% of
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teachers in the highest poverty schools. On average, students also experience lower academic
growth in schools serving higher proportions of low-income and minority students.
INSERT TABLE 2 ABOUT HERE
Predictors: Student Demographics, Teacher Characteristics, and School Type
In many of our analyses, we account for differences across schools using a rich set of
measures for student, teacher, and school characteristics. In our discussion, we focus our
attention on two important measures of a school’s demographic composition: the percentage of
students in the school who qualify for federal free and reduced-price lunch (low-income) and the
percentage of African-American and Hispanic students (minority). We also account for many
other student characteristics, including past levels of student achievement3 and the percentage of
students who are non-native English speakers, who have limited proficiency with English, who
have individualized education programs, and who joined the school midway through the year.
Individual teacher characteristics include indicators for classroom teachers, teacher experience
level (both overall and at the current school), gender, race, and highest degree obtained. School-
level characteristics include the number of full-time equivalent positions, the percentage of
teachers across various age ranges, and the percentage of teachers of a given race, as well as
indicators for school-type (elementary, middle, high or mixed grade), urbanicity, and charter
school status. In some models, we also control for district fixed effects, which limits our
comparisons to teachers in the same district and thus accounts for any differences in working
conditions due to district-specific policies such as teacher salaries or the length of the school
day/year.
Predictors: Key Elements Reflecting the Conditions of Work
13
We develop a set of nine measures that reflect the broad-based conditions in which
teachers work. We construct these predictors from different items on the Mass TeLLS. In
developing these measures, we take as our starting point a body of qualitative and quantitative
research that examines the conditions of work in public schools and the relationship between
these working conditions and teacher turnover (for a review of the literature, see Johnson, Berg,
& Donaldson, 2005). We identify key theory-based categories that capture the overall quality of
the work environment and select individual items from the Mass TeLLS that closely correspond
to each element. We then conduct traditional item analysis and principal components analysis to
examine the statistical properties of these composites. Using these data, we systematically
remove items that do not fit well statistically with the other items in the same category. Iterating
between the statistical properties of the items and the theoretical concepts they represent, we
arrive at nine key elements:
COLLEAGUES: the extent to which teachers have productive working relationships
with their colleagues and work together to solve problems in the school;
COMMUNITY SUPPORT: the extent to which families and the broader community
support teachers and students in the school;
FACILITIES: the extent to which teachers work in a safe, clean, and well-maintained
school environment that enables them to be productive;
GOVERNANCE: the extent to which teachers are involved in decision-making about
matters of school governance;
PRINCIPAL: the extent to which school leaders provide feedback on instruction, create
an orderly and safe instructional environment, and address teachers’ concerns about
issues in the school;
14
PROFESSIONAL EXPERTISE: the extent to which teachers are recognized as
educational experts and are given the flexibility to make professional decisions about
instruction;
RESOURCES: the extent to which teachers have access to sufficient instructional
materials, instructional technology, and support personnel in the school;
SCHOOL CULTURE: the extent to which the school environment is characterized by
mutual trust, respect, openness, and commitment to student achievement;
TIME: the extent to which teachers have sufficient time to meet their instructional and
non-instructional responsibilities in the school.
In Appendix A, we describe these elements in more detail and present the Mass TeLLS items on
which each is based. For each element, the internal-consistency reliability exceeds 0.7 and
principal components analysis suggests that the composite captures only one underlying
construct.
For each teacher, we create each measure by standardizing the relevant items and then
computing their weighted sum using weights from the first principal component. When we
present our analytic strategy, we refer to a generic condition of work measure as
CW_ELEMENT, but we complete an identical analysis for each of the nine measures. In
addition, we construct a measure of the overall conditions of work at a school (CW_TOTAL).
This composite is the standardized mean of our conditions of work elements, with each element
weighted equally. Thus, each measure has a mean of zero and standard deviation of one to allow
for a more meaningful comparison of the magnitudes of our point estimates across elements.
We create three different versions of each element to use as question predictors. First, we
are interested in understanding the relationship between a teacher’s own ratings and her self-
15
reported satisfaction and career intentions. This relationship is substantively interesting because
teachers inevitably respond to their own perceptions of their work environment. However, as we
discussed above, this measure may not best represent the aggregate context across the school
because of reporting bias or individual differences (Boyd et al., 2011). As a result, we also
construct school-level averages for each element based on the ratings of all other teachers in the
school, excluding the teacher’s own rating. This peer-average rating allows us to examine
measures of the work context that are not influenced by the rating of the teacher in question. The
correlation between individual ratings and peer-average ratings of the overall work environment
is 0.52. This suggests that, while teachers’ ratings generally reflect those of their peers, there is
substantial variation in ratings across teachers in the same school. Finally, because our measure
of student achievement growth is only available at the school level, we create a school-level
average measure that includes all teachers in a given school.
In the bottom panel of Table 2, we present descriptive statistics for average conditions of
work by school-level demographics. Because we have standardized these measures across all
teachers who completed the survey, the average across the analytic sample is close to zero.
However, we see a systematic relationship between the quality of the conditions of work in
schools and the student populations they serve. Notably, teachers consistently rate every
condition of work element as lower, on average, in schools with more low-income and minority
students. For example, teachers rate the overall conditions of work more than two-thirds of a
standard deviation lower in schools with the most low-income and minority students (top
quintile) than in schools with the fewest (bottom quintile). Thus, Table 2 reveals two related
trends: teachers are less satisfied and less likely to remain in schools serving higher proportions
16
of low-income and minority students. At the same time, these schools are also the ones where
teachers report having a less supportive working environment.
Empirical Framework
The correlation between student demographics and the conditions of work highlights an
important challenge for us teachers usually choose where they teach and students (or their
parents) often choose or influence choices about which schools they attend. If students and
teachers were randomly assigned to schools and classrooms across the state, we could isolate the
causal effect of the conditions of work on our outcomes. In other words, we could interpret any
differences in teacher satisfaction or transfer behavior as the effect of the school context, rather
than student demographics. However, teachers, parents and students all have some role in
choosing schools, based on both observable characteristics that we can examine and
unobservable characteristics that we cannot, such as whether students who attend the school are
thought to be highly-motivated, whether the students’ sports teams do well, whether the
commute is manageable, or whether parking space is sufficient and safe. As a result, we cannot
fully separate the role that working conditions, student demographics, and other (unobservable)
characteristics play in teachers’ satisfaction, their career intentions, and school-level student
achievement because we are unable to observe and measure all the factors that may influence
individuals’ choices.
We attempt to address this challenge in several ways. First, we ask whether accounting
for differences in the conditions of work across schools affects the observed relationship between
student demographics and our outcomes (teacher satisfaction, career intentions, and student
achievement). In other words, when we compare schools with similar work contexts, do we still
see that teachers are less satisfied and intend to leave schools with poor and minority students?
17
Second, we can examine whether the relationship we observe between conditions of work and
our outcomes changes when we attempt to account for the non-random sorting of teachers and
students by controlling for a rich set of student, teacher and school characteristics. In other
words, if we compare teachers with similar characteristics, in schools serving similar students,
does the school’s work context still matter? Although we cannot fully account for all of the
ways in which teachers and schools differ, we can examine how our estimates of the
relationships between working conditions and our outcomes change as we control for these
observable characteristics.
To address our research questions, we fit standard regression models that describe the
relationship between each outcome and both overall conditions of work (CW_TOTAL) and each
element separately (CW_ELEMENT). We model this relationship differently depending on the
properties of our outcome variables. For example, we model teacher satisfaction as a linear
function of conditions of work using OLS regression:
(1)
ijijijij XTOTALCWONSATISFACTI
'_*
for teacher i in school j. Here, our coefficient of interest is α, which represents the relationship
between teacher satisfaction and overall working conditions. In some models we include a rich
set of controls for student and teacher demographic characteristics, school type, and district fixed
effects (Xij).
We fit an analogous multinomial logistic regression model to examine the relationship
between teacher career intentions and working conditions:
(2)
ijijij
ij
ij XTOTALCW
INTENTIONp
nINTENTIONp
'_*
)0(
)(
log
18
for n=1 and n=2. Here, β is our parameter of interest; it represents the relationship between
working conditions and the relative risk of transferring from the school (n=1) or leaving teaching
(n=2) compared to staying at the school. In our tables, we present the relative risk ratio, a ratio of
the odds of expressing either intention to the odds of staying. Estimates less than 1 reflect a
negative relationship between working conditions and the probability that a teacher transfers or
leaves, while estimates greater than 1 indicate a positive relationship. We fit models (1) and (2)
using both individual teachers’ own ratings of their working conditions and the peer-average
ratings of the conditions of work at their school. In all models we account for the correlation of
teachers’ responses within a school by clustering our standard errors at the school level.
For our third outcome, growth in academic achievement, we focus our analysis at the
school level. We use an approach similar to Ladd’s (2009) in which she regresses school value-
added estimates on average measures of working conditions and school-level demographics.
Instead of generating value-added measures, we use the Massachusetts DESE’s preferred
measure of school-level growthStudent Growth Percentiles (SGP). Both value-added measures
and the SGP estimate the extent of student achievement growth experienced by students in a
given school. We fit the following model at the school level:
(3)
Our parameter of interest is γ, which represents the relationship between student achievement
growth and average school-level working conditions, conditional on school-level observable
characteristics.
With our third research question, we seek to understand which elements of the teachers’
work environment are the most important determinants of teacher satisfaction, career plans, and
19
student achievement growth. To assess this, we fit separate regressions, replacing CW_TOTAL
with each individual element (CW_ELEMENT) in equations (1), (2), and (3) above.
Findings
1) Do the conditions of work in Massachusetts public schools affect teachers’ satisfaction with
their jobs and their career plans?
We find strong evidence that the conditions of work matter to teachers. They are
important predictors of teachers’ satisfaction and their career intentions, even when holding
constant the demographic make-up of schools. In fact, conditions of work explain a substantially
greater proportion of the variance in teachers’ satisfaction and career plans than student
demographic characteristics. Furthermore, accounting for differences in conditions of work
across schools substantially reduces the apparent relationship between student demographic
characteristics and these outcomes. This finding suggests that much of the apparent effect of
student demographics really derives from differences in the schools’ work environments.
Individual measures of work context
Not surprisingly, individual teachers’ perceptions of working conditions are strongly
related to their satisfaction and career plans. In the top panel of Table 3, we present selected
parameter estimates from equation (1), with different sets of predictors. In column (I), we present
the uncontrolled relationship between satisfaction and our context of work measure: each one
standard deviation improvement in work environment is associated with a 0.53 standard
deviation improvement in teacher satisfaction. This estimate remains practically unchanged
when we add controls for a wide range of teacher, student, and school characteristics (column
III) and when we restrict our comparisons to teachers in the same school district (column IV). In
other words, even when we compare teachers who teach in schools of the same size and type
20
(elementary, middle, or high school) that serve the same types of students and are subject to the
same district policies and salary scale, the context of work remains an important predictor of
teachers’ job satisfaction.
INSERT TABLE 3 ABOUT HERE
In fact, the context of work is a much stronger predictor of job satisfaction than all other
characteristics combined. We find that the work environment measure alone explains nearly 29%
of the variation in satisfaction. By contrast, our rich set of student, teacher, and school
characteristics explain only 6% of the variation (column II). Furthermore, we find that
accounting for the conditions of work meaningfully reduces the observed relationships between
student demographic characteristics and teacher satisfaction. In columns (V) and (VII), we
present the simple relationship between teacher satisfaction and two student demographic
measures, the proportion of low-income students and minority students in a school. In both
cases, we see large and negative relationships, suggesting that on average teachers are less
satisfied in schools with more low-income and minority students. However, once we account for
our overall measure of the work context (columns VI and VIII), these estimated effects are
reduced substantially, by more than 70%. Thus, the apparent relationship between student
demographics and our outcomes reflects, in large part, the poor work environments in which
low-income and minority students are taught.
We see very similar patterns between individual teachers’ ratings of their work
environment and their stated career plans. Teachers are far more likely to plan to stay in schools
with better overall conditions of work. In Table 4, we present results similar to those above. We
focus on teachers’ intentions to stay in their schools or to transfer, rather than their plans to leave
the profession, because we find that decisions to transfer are more sensitive to the school
21
environment than are decisions to leave teaching. We present analogous results for teachers’
intentions to leave teaching in Appendix Table A-1. Here, we report relative risk ratios, which
represent the odds that a teacher plans to change schools relative to the odds that he plans to
remain at the same school, for each unit change in our predictors.
INSERT TABLE 4 ABOUT HERE
The fact that these estimated ratios are substantially less than one demonstrates that
teachers are far less likely to plan to transfer from schools with better work contexts. Again,
these estimates remain essentially the same when we control for a wide variety of student,
teacher, and school characteristics, suggesting that observable differences in the students that
teachers serve, the districts in which they work, or the teachers themselves are not driving these
results. As with teacher satisfaction, we again see that the apparent importance of student
demographic characteristics is substantially diminished when we account for differences in
working conditions across schools. The relative risk ratios associated with student demographics
become much closer to one after working conditions measures are included in columns (VI) and
(VIII). This suggests that the apparent relationship between teacher turnover and student
characteristics may largely reflect differences in the work context.
We can see the importance of the work context in transfer decisions clearly by comparing
two hypothetical teachers. Both have the same characteristics and teach in schools of the same
type and size with similar students, but those schools have very different work environments.
The first context is not particularly supportive, at the 25th percentile of the distribution statewide,
while the second is more supportive, at the 75th percentile statewide. The first teacher has a 5.9%
chance of intending to transfer, compared to just 1.1% for the second teacher. In other words,
teachers are far more likely to transfer from schools with less supportive work environments.
22
Peer-average measures of work context
That teachers’ own perceptions of their working conditions are related to their
satisfaction with the school and their career intentions is not surprising: teachers who are happy
at their school for whatever reason may be more likely to report a supportive work environment,
be satisfied in their job, and plan to stay. In the bottom panels of Tables 3 and 4, we present
results using peer-average measures of the conditions of work instead of individual reports.
Notably, replacing individual perceptions of working conditions with peer-averages produces
very similar results, suggesting that the relationship between teacher satisfaction, career
intentions, and working conditions in schools is not simply a product of self-reporting bias or
individual teacher differences.
Comparing schools with similar student and teacher characteristics within the same
district, we find that a one standard deviation improvement in the peer-average work context
rating is associated with a 0.55 standard deviation increase in teacher satisfaction (Column IV).
This is nearly identical to the effect found using individual teachers’ ratings. Returning to our
hypothetical teachers above, the chances a teacher intends to transfer drops from 5.5% to 2.6%
when we compare schools at the 25th and the 75th percentile of our peer-average work context
measure. In other words, in schools where peers rate the conditions of work more favorably, a
teacher tends to be more satisfied and less likely to transfer.
We illustrate these relationships in Figure 1, where we plot the probability that a teacher
plans to transfer against peer-average conditions of work. We present the results from our fitted
model, which controls for student, teacher, and school characteristics but allows for comparisons
across districts (model III), overlaid on a histogram of the raw probabilities that a teacher intends
to transfer at different levels of overall working conditions. The fitted relationship represents an
23
extension of our previous example of two hypothetical teachers by depicting how teachers’
probability of intending to transfer would differ if we were to only change the quality of the
work context at their school. Several important patterns emerge. First, as working conditions
improve (moving to the right), the probability that teachers intend to transfer decreases. Second,
teachers appear to be particularly sensitive to very bad conditions of work, as demonstrated by
the rapid increase in the probability that a teacher plans to transfer when working conditions fall
below the 25th percentile.
INSERT FIGURE 1 ABOUT HERE
Overall, our estimates of the effects of teachers’ work context – both individual and peer-
average are large and very robust to the inclusion of a rich set of controls. However,
accounting for differences in the quality of teachers’ work context greatly diminishes the
perceived importance of student demographic characteristics. Our observational data do not
allow us to fully disentangle the effects of student demographics from those of working
conditions. But, the large and consistent reduction of the estimated effect of student
demographics across outcomes provides compelling evidence that, if researchers do not account
for difference in working conditions, they will overstate the importance of student
characteristics. In fact, teachers’ satisfaction with their school and the probability that they
intend to transfer from their school appear to be far more sensitive to the conditions of work at
that school than to the demographic makeup of the student body.
(2) Is the context of teachers’ work related to students’ performance?
We find evidence to suggest that the conditions of work are important predictors of
student achievement growth in Massachusetts. Notably, our results are quite similar to those of
Ladd (2009) from North Carolina. In Table 5, we see that a better work environment is
24
associated with higher levels of student academic growth in both mathematics (top panel) and
English language arts (bottom panel). Controlling for a wide range of student, teacher, and
school characteristics, as well as district fixed effects, we find that a one standard deviation
improvement in the context of teachers’ work is associated with improvements in student
achievement growth of 0.15 standard deviations in mathematics (p=0.053) and 0.20 standard
deviations in English language arts (p=0.004) in a single year. These effects sizes are equivalent
to 1.7 and 2.1 Student Growth Percentile units respectively and represent the difference between
an average school and a school at the 57th percentile of the distribution of student growth in both
subjects.
INSERT TABLE 5 ABOUT HERE
However, unlike our analyses of teacher satisfaction and career plans, the coefficient on
our conditions of work predictor falls substantially when we include our full set of controls. This
suggests that our estimates may be biased because of unobserved differences across schools.
However, even if our estimates may somewhat overstate the relationship between the conditions
of work and student achievement, our analysis suggests strongly that an important relationship
does exist. The effects of any unobserved differences would have to be nearly as large as those of
the rich set of observable characteristics that we do measure in order to make these relationships
disappear.
(3) If the conditions of work are important, what elements of the work environment matter the
most?
We find that each of our nine work context elements has a strong, positive relationship
with teachers’ satisfaction and their plans to stay in the school. We fit a separate regression
using each condition of work element as the primary predictor, controlling for the full set of
25
student and teacher demographics, school characteristics, and district fixed effects, and we
present the coefficients from these regressions in Table 6. Here, we focus on peer-average
conditions of work, but we see nearly identical patterns with the individual measures. According
to their survey responses, teachers attend to a wide range of working conditions, such as having
sufficient time to meet their responsibilities, having the support of families and the broader
community for their work with students, and being involved in making decisions about school
governance. Table 6 shows that each element we measure is meaningful to teachers, and many
also appear to have important consequences for student academic growth.
INSERT TABLE 6 ABOUT HERE
However, certain elements of the teachers’ work environment matter more to teachers
than others, across all of our outcomes. While the elements commonly thought of as working
conditions such as planning time, school facilities, or instructional resources are important,
the elements that are social in nature tend to matter the most. These include (1) collegial
relationships, or the extent to which teachers report having productive working relationships with
their colleagues; (2) the principal’s leadership, or the extent to which teachers report that their
school leaders are supportive and create school environments conducive to learning; and (3)
school culture, or the extent to which school environments are characterized by mutual trust,
respect, openness, and commitment to student achievement. The magnitudes of their effects are
almost twice as large as those of school resources and facilities.
We find somewhat different patterns in our analysis of student achievement growth.
Here, teachers’ ratings of community support emerge as the most important predictor. This
finding makes sense, because positive relationships between teachers and parents may well
improve students’ attendance and effort in school. Importantly, though, after community support,
26
we again find that collegial relationships, the principal’s leadership, and school culture are the
strongest determinants of student achievement growth. For example, a one standard deviation
difference in teachers’ ratings of the principal’s leadership in the school is associated with a 0.15
standard deviation difference in mathematics student growth and a 0.18 standard deviation
difference in English language arts, even after controlling for a range of student and teacher
characteristics. These are substantial relationships between specific elements of the work
environment and student achievement growth. Thus, colleagues, principals, and culture matter,
not just for teachers, but for their students as well.
These consistent findings suggest that collegial relationships, principal leadership and
school culture are interrelated components of the social context of teachers’ work. Examining
simple pairwise correlations among all our elements of the work context reveal that positive
collegial relationships, principal leadership, and school culture are frequently found together at
the same school. Table 7 shows that these three elements of the work context are the most
strongly related elements of working conditions, with each of the three pairwise combinations
having a correlation coefficient of 0.83 or greater. In comparison, school facilities and resources,
two elements often thought to be highly related, only have a correlation of 0.69.
INSERT TABLE 7 ABOUT HERE
Discussion
In short, we find that the conditions of teachers’ work matter a great deal. Teachers who
teach in favorable work environments report that they are more satisfied and less likely to plan to
transfer or leave the profession than their peers in schools with less favorable conditions, even
after controlling for student demographics and other school and teacher characteristics. In fact,
differences in the work context account for much of the apparent relationship between student
27
demographics and teacher turnover. These results align with a growing body of work examining
the organizational characteristics of the schools in which teachers work (Boyd et al., 2011; Ladd,
2011). Together, these studies suggest strongly that the high turnover rates of teachers in schools
with substantial populations of low-income and minority students are driven largely by teachers
fleeing the dysfunctional and unsupportive work environments in the schools to which low-
income and minority students are most likely to be assigned. Importantly, these studies find
similar patterns in very different locations: Massachusetts, New York City, and North Carolina.
We conclude that a range of working conditions matter to teachers, but the most
importantthose that both retain teachers in low-income, high-minority schools and make it
possible for students there to achieveare the ones that shape the social context of teaching and
learning. These are not conventional working conditions such as facilities, school resources, or
planning time, but elements like the school culture, the principal’s leadership, and the
relationships with their colleagues. This makes sense. Teachers, have chosen a career in which
social relationships are central, and they find that their work with students is influenced heavily
by the relationships they form with other adultstheir principal and their colleaguesin the
school. Effective principals create an orderly school environment, are responsive to teachers’
concerns, and provide instructional leadership by ensuring that teachers receive regular and
meaningful feedback about their teaching practice. Supportive collegial relationships allow
teachers to learn from peers, solve problems together, and hold one another accountable.
Together, principals and teachers create a school climate that ensures order, engages parents, and
supports student learning. It is surely important to have safe facilities, adequate resources, and
sufficient time for preparation, but if teachers are to achieve success with their students
particularly low-income and high-minority students who rely most on the school for their
28
learningthey also must be able to count on their colleagues, their principal, and the
organizational culture of the school to make success possible.
However, it would be a mistake to suggest that teachers have no views or preferences
about the students they teach, that they simply move from school to school in search of a
supportive working environment. As Mary Kennedy (2010) explains in her recent analysis of
factors that affect teachers’ working conditions, researchers have long understood that
“Teachers’ sense of efficacy depends on the particular students they teach” (p. 595). Many
teachers choose to work with groups of high-poverty, high-minority students because they are
committed to social justice or because they believe that by teaching these students, they can
contribute to the public good. At the same time, other teachers may avoid working with the same
groups of students, either because of personal discomfort or doubts that they can be successful in
teaching them. Also, as teachers decide whether to stay in their school or transfer to another, it
may be difficult for them to distinguish between problems caused by students and problems
resulting from a dysfunctional work environment. For example, they may blame students for
chaotic or dangerous conditions in the corridors, when the underlying problem is a negative
school culture or teachers who feel responsible only for what happens in their classroom.
Students clearly play a role in shaping teachers’ daily experiences in school, but they are far
from being the only factor that affects their preferences.
Importantly, the context of work appears to matter not only for the adults, but also for
their students. When comparing schools with similar student demographics and past test
performance, those with better work environments for teachers show greater student achievement
growth. Again, these findings are consistent with those of Ladd (2009) in North Carolina. The
school work environment could affect student outcomes in several ways. First, as we explained,
29
teachers are more likely to stay in schools with more supportive principals and colleagues. It
seems probable that such schools do better than others in attracting effective teachers and
encouraging them to stay. A prospective teacher who is intent on becoming a successful
teacherespecially one who is personally motivated to serve low-income, minority students
will likely want to work with others who share her purposes and expectations. Having a strong
professional culture in the school will sustain that teacher over time. Therefore, students would
be well-served to attend a school that is known to be a good place to teach, since that school is
likely to attract and retain like-minded teachers.
Second, the teachers’ survey responses suggest that these supportive work environments
are ones where teachers collaborate regularly and learn from one another. They are organizations
that seem to have replaced the isolation of the traditional egg-crate school with more complex
and interdependent working relationships among teachers. Recent research by Jackson and
Bruegmann (2009) shows that elementary school teachers improve in their ability to raise student
test scores when they work in the presence of more effective colleagues. Although this study
does not explain how this peer learning occurs, it does suggest strongly that collegial
relationships can improve teachers’ practice. Therefore, work environments that promote
positive collegial interaction are likely to support student learning.
Finally, schools with better work environments also appear to be conducive to teachers
and students joint success. Our measure of school culture captures the extent to which teachers
trust and respect each other, feel comfortable raising concerns, and are committed to helping
students learn. Moving a teacher from a school with a strong, positive school culture to another
with a weak or negative school culture may reduce her effectiveness, not because she becomes a
less skilled instructor, but because she can no longer count on a coherent code of behavior or
30
high expectations among fellow teachers and students. A strong, positive school culture,
consistently promoted by teachers and the principal, can enhance the learning that occurs in each
classroom throughout the school.
In their studies, Boyd et al. and Ladd identified the principal’s leadership as being the
most important factor in the teachers’ work environment. By contrast, our study suggests that
the principal is but one of three key elements that contribute to the quality of the social context of
work. What we know about school practice suggests these three elements interact and are
interdependent, a conclusion that is supported by the strong correlations among these measures.
School culture is developed, enacted, and supported by both the principal and teachers. The
principal can expect the school to be an orderly place for teaching and learning, but unless the
teachers do their part, it will be one that is run by rules, rather than shaped and sustained by
norms. Teachers’ collegial interactions are made possible by a principal who encourages them to
work together, ensures that they have time to do so, and brokers their relationships. Yet, unless
the school culture encourages everyone to share what they know, the best practices of expert
teachers may never reach beyond their individual classrooms. A principal may hold the most
formal authority in a school, but without the day-to-day support of teachers, that authority will
fall far short of what it takes to truly turn a school around.
Implications
These findings have implications for both policy and practice. In recent years, the intense
focus on student achievement in low-income, high-minority schools has led many analysts and
policymakers to ignore or dismiss the concerns of teachers and attend exclusively to the needs of
students—as if addressing teachers’ needs might shortchange students. Some may conceive of
“good” working conditions as those that make a job comfortable or easy—short hours, light
31
responsibilities, or little supervision. However, that is not what these teachers reported. The
working conditions that mattered most to them were not features that made the job of teaching
easy, but those that made effective teaching possible.
In 1904, union organizer Maggie Haley contended that students’ and teachers’ interests
are consistent: “The atmosphere in which it is easiest to teach is the atmosphere in which it is
easiest to learn. The same things that are a burden to the teacher are a burden also to the student”
(Reid, 1982, p. 280). Recent proponents of this view point out that teachers’ working conditions
are students’ learning conditions. Critics of that stance often cite instances when an individual
teacher’s interest (for example, to keep a job despite poor performance) is at odds with her
students’ interest in having an effective teacher. Clearly, all teachers’ interests are not always
aligned with what is in the best interest of their students. However, our findings suggest that
Haley’s assertion continues to have merit today; good working conditions within a school do
predict growth in students’ academic achievement.
If schools are to attract and retain the best possible teachers to work with the students
who need them most, those schools cannot be workplaces of deprivation, disorder, and isolation,
for neither teachers nor students will succeed there. Teachers become acutely sensitive to their
work environment when schools cannot provide minimally acceptable conditions in which to
work. As our results demonstrate, teachers are three times more likely to plan to transfer from
schools with particularly poor conditions of work than are teachers whose work environment is
of average quality. These high turnover rates erode efforts to foster meaningful collegial
relationships, develop instructional capacity and establish a strong organizational culture. If
public education is to provide effective teachers for all students, then the schools those students
attend must become places that support effective teaching and learning across all classrooms.
32
The Race to the Top competition features strategies for reforming chronically failing
schools that focus primarily on replacing some or all of the teaching staff and/or the principal in
a school, but not necessarily reforming the organization or workplace of the school, itself. In
fact, many so-called turnaround schools downplay the importance of the social context in which
teachers work and place heightened attention on individual teachers’ effectiveness by offering
financial incentives to teach at the school or insisting that successful teachers should be
reassigned there. Our findings suggest that this narrow attention to the individual in isolation
from the organization is misguided. Unless those schools become places where the principals
and teachers can work together to build a school culture that supports good instruction, the
much-sought-after gains in student learning will not be realized.
Our findings do not provide simple answers for policymakers. Not surprisingly, those
who would increase students’ learning by reforming the teacher’s workplace typically focus on
factors that can be readily manipulated. Indeed, if school facilities had emerged as the most
important element of the workplace, our recommendation for renovating school buildings would
be clear. However, there are at least two important challenges to such approaches. First, the
policy that is adopted may not reflect the reality as it is implemented. For example, a local
teachers contract may limit class size to 30 students, but there is no assurance that those students
will attend class regularly. Alternatively, a state policy may specify that teachers must be
evaluated annually, but that is no guarantee that classroom observations actually will occur or
that an evaluator will provide meaningful feedback for the teacher’s improvement. Researchers
at the New Teacher Project (Weisberg, Sexton, et al., 2009) who surveyed teachers in 12 districts
across 4 states found that 73% “said their most recent evaluation did not identify any
33
development areas, and only 45 percent of teachers who did have development areas identified
said they received useful support to improve” (p. 5).
Furthermore, the fact that teachers seek good principals, collaborative colleagues, and a
positive school culture does not translate easily into legislation or administrative regulation.
What is clear, however, is that guaranteeing an effective teacher for all studentsespecially
minority students who live in povertycannot be accomplished simply by offering financial
bonuses or mandating the reassignment of effective teachers. Rather, if the school is known to be
a supportive and productive workplace, good teachers will come, they will stay, and their
students will learn. Therefore, policymakers would do well to avoid mandates that limit schools’
flexibility and, instead, promote changes that encourage innovation, adaptability, and
collaboration among those at the school site.
Our results have several important implications for local administrators at both the central
office and school levels. In seeking to improve failing schools, the most important decision a
superintendent makes is to select and assign principals who know how to build a school
organization collaboratively with teachers. These are individuals who understand the difference
between what they can accomplish through decisive leadership and what they can develop only
by promoting positive working relationships. Such principals realize that it is the social context
of teachers’ work that allows them to achieve their greatest success with students. The fact that
colleagues play an important role in teachers’ development means that care also should be taken
to assemble a staff of teachers who share core values and are intent on improving their practice,
individually and collectively. This suggests that students are well served when their principal and
teachers play an active role in recruiting and selecting new teachers. Together, they must ensure
that prospective colleagues understand the demands of the work, know the supports they can
34
count on, and realize the expectations that others will hold for them.
Schools can improve their instructional capacity by coaching individual teachers and
relying on systematic and meaningful evaluations to provide feedback and recommendations for
improvement. Taylor and Tyler (2011) found that mid-career teachers in Cincinnati who
participated in the Teacher Evaluation System, which relies on peer evaluators, improved their
students’ performance, as measured by student test score gains, in both the year of the evaluation
and in the years following. However, even when a school actively engages teachers in
collaborative learning and development, there still may be individuals who cannot improve or
who decide not to try. Because teachers’ work is so important, their performance should be
reviewed regularly; those who lack the skills or attitudes needed to succeed with students should
be encouraged to leave or be dismissed.
Future Directions for Research
Evidence continues to mount that working conditions play an important role in both
teachers’ career choices and their students’ learning. However, we still have much to learn about
the working conditions that matter most to teachers and how they influence school organization
and instructional practice. To date, those studying the issue have relied primarily on large data
sets that allow them to track teachers’ career paths and student achievement over time, or they
have analyzed survey data, such as the MassTeLLS, that report on teachers’ views. Future work
would particularly benefit from additional measures of the social conditions of work, which
teacher surveys or audits of schooling infrastructure do not fully capture. We need to combine
such sources with closer analyses of school-level practices including observations and
interviews in order to examine why some working conditions are especially important, how
they interact day to day, and what can be done to ensure that all schools serving low-income,
35
high-minority students become places where teachers do their best work.
For example, many schools and districts have introduced policies and practices that are
meant to promote more collaboration among teachers. Yet, we know little about how and how
well these initiatives work and, therefore, whether they are a worthwhile investment of scarce
resources. What, for example, is the impact of introducing common planning time for grade-level
or subject-based groups of teachers? What do teachers do with that time and what role do school
leaders play in its use? Does site-based hiring improve the match between new teachers and their
schools and, thus, ensure more rapid induction and greater collaboration? If so, who participates
in an effective selection process? Does assigning expert teachers to serve in differentiated roles
as instructional coaches or peer evaluators promote more coherence across classrooms within
schools? The more that we can learn about these approacheshow they are structured, whether
they seem to make a difference in teaching and learning, what particular design features appear
to be important, and how they are implementedthe more policymakers and school officials can
choose appropriate levers for change that will increase teachers’ commitment to a school and
enhance the experiences of students enrolled there.
Researchers repeatedly find that principals are central to school improvement and to
teachers’ satisfaction. However, we have yet to explain adequately what role an effective
principal plays. This work would go well beyond reporting on how principals spend their time;
it would explain how they conceive of and do their work. In our study, we found that schools
with stronger principal leadership, collegial relationships, and school culture were the schools
where teachers were more satisfied and students experienced greater academic growth. Although
these elements of the work context were distinct, they were also related; schools with high scores
on one element often had high scores on the others. Still, we do not yet understand exactly why
36
the principal is so important and how he or she uses the informal and formal authority of the
position to promote teachers’ collaborative work and a productive school culture.
States’ and districts’ continue to gather and maintain rich, longitudinal data about many
factors that are relevant to this issuestudent enrollment and achievement, teacher transfer
patterns, principal hiring and assignment, teacher evaluation, school climate, and parental
satisfaction. These data, considered individually and in combination, enable us to examine
increasingly complex interactions among principals, teachers, students, and the school context.
They also hold great promise for allowing us to identify individual schools serving low-income,
high-minority populations that warrant close examination, either because of their success or their
failure. Through such work, researchers can explain more fully and practically what
policymakers, school leaders, and teachers can do to improve schooling for all students.
37
Notes
The MassTeLLS is based on the same basic survey that Ladd (2009) uses in North Carolina.
More information about the MassTeLLS, including a copy of the survey, is available at
http://www.masstells.org/.
2 We use school-wide average SGP from two future years, 2008-09 and 2009-10, to avoid the
challenge that teachers may report better conditions of work in schools where students are
experiencing greater academic success. For more information about the SGP, see
http://www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/growth/.
3 Average student achievement is captured by the Composite Performance Index (CPI), a 100-
point index that is the average of individual students’ performance on the state standardized tests
in mathematics and English language arts.
38
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41
Figure 1. Histogram showing the sample probability that teachers intend to transfer, by the peer-
average conditions of work rating, with the fitted relationship between the probability of transfer
and the conditions of work from equation (2) overlaid.
0
0.05
0.1
0.15
0.2
0.25
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80 85 90 95
Conditions of Work (Percentile)
Probability Teacher Intends to Transfer
42
Table 1. Sample percentages of select teacher and school descriptive statistics in
Massachusetts, comparing teachers in the analytic sample and not in the sample.
State Total Sample Non-Sample
Male (%) 20.14 19.87 20.29
Race
White (%) 91.91 92.01 91.19
African-American (%) 3.28 1.55 4.23
Hispanic (%) 3.14 1.59 3.99
Asian-American (%) 1.05 0.88 1.14
Number of teachers 70,717 25,135 45,582
State Total Sample Non-Sample
School Type
Elementary (%) 54.33 59.81 45.74
Middle (%) 16.47 17.16 15.38
High (%) 15.19 14.36 16.48
Urban (%) 28.18 28.37 27.88
Total FTE 34.79 35.94 32.98
Student Demographics
White (%) 70.00 71.21 68.11
African-American (%) 8.71 8.15 9.59
Hispanic (%) 14.23 13.36 15.59
Asian-American (%) 4.61 4.84 4.25
Non-native English speakers (%) 14.69 14.15 15.52
Special Education (%) 17.21 16.32 18.59
Limited English proficient (%) 6.18 6.38 5.86
Low-income (%) 31.39 31.04 31.92
Teacher Age
Less than 26 (%) 6.25 6.04 6.57
Between 26 and 32 (%) 18.85 17.97 20.25
Between 33 and 40 (%) 19.28 19.14 19.49
Between 41 and 48 (%) 17.30 17.55 16.91
Between 49 and 56 (%) 24.85 25.33 24.10
Between 57 and 64 (%) 12.81 13.27 12.09
Over 64 (%) 0.70 0.73 0.66
Number of schools 1,870 1142 728
Mean School Characteristics
Mean Teacher Characteristics
NOTE: Massachusetts AY2007-2008 statewide data used in these comparisons is available at
www.doe.mass.edu.
43
Table 2. Descriptive statistics of outcomes and predictors from final analytic sample (n=25,135 teachers, 1,142 schools).
Sample
Average
Low Poverty
(Bottom 20%)
High Poverty
(Top 20%)
Low Minority
(Bottom 20%)
High Minority
(Top 20%)
PANEL I: OUTCOMES
(1) Teacher Satisfaction
SATISFACTION (SD)
0.008 0.250 -0.250 0.135 -0.251
Strongly Agree: My school is a
good place to work and learn (%)
41.2% 53.3% 32.4% 46.7% 32.2%
(2) Career Intentions
Stay (%) 83.2% 86.7% 77.5% 85.6% 76.8%
Transfer (%) 5.0% 2.3% 9.3% 3.3% 9.7%
Leave (%) 11.8% 11.0% 13.2% 11.1% 13.5%
(3) Student Growth Percentile - School-level (SD)
Mathematics (SD) 0.003 0.581 -0.419 0.289 -0.439
English Language Arts (SD) 0.005 0.606 -0.495 0.334 -0.440
PANEL II: PREDICTORS (individual)
CW_TOTAL (SD) 0.019 0.420 -0.343 0.215 -0.343
Colleagues (SD) 0.020 0.194 0.025 0.049 -0.012
Community Support (SD) 0.010 0.658 -0.613 0.346 -0.576
Facilities (SD) 0.014 0.257 -0.408 0.200 -0.402
Governance (SD) 0.018 0.313 -0.213 0.151 -0.202
Principal (SD) 0.018 0.183 -0.086 0.088 -0.109
Professional Expertise (SD) 0.002 0.350 -0.419 0.188 -0.395
Resources (SD) 0.024 0.371 -0.242 0.177 -0.228
School Culture (SD) 0.014 0.253 -0.185 0.129 -0.200
Time (SD) 0.003 0.130 -0.075 0.058 -0.090
Percent Low-Income
Percent Minority Students
44
Table 3. Parameter estimates showing the relationship between teacher satisfaction and both conditions of work and selected student
demographic characteristics, with different sets of predictors, from equation (1) (cell entries include parameter estimates, standard
errors, and asterisks to denote inference; n=25,091).
(II)
Panel I: Individual Ratings
CW_TOTAL (individual) 0.535 *** 0.524 *** 0.526 *** 0.525 *** 0.526 ***
Proportion of low-income students -0.681 *** -0.156 ***
Proportion of minority students -0.578 *** -0.167 ***
Student Demographics
Teacher Demographics
School Type
District Fixed Effects
R20.285 0.060 0.299 0.317 0.028 0.287 0.023 0.287
Panel II: Peer-Average Ratings
CW_TOTAL (peer-average) 0.577 *** 0.535 *** 0.550 *** 0.553 *** 0.553 ***
Proportion of low-income students -0.681 *** -0.128 **
Proportion of minority students -0.578 *** -0.146 ***
Student Demographics
Teacher Demographics
School Type
District Fixed Effects
R20.110 0.060 0.125 0.143 0.028 0.111 0.023 0.112
(0.060)
(0.039)
(0.018)
(0.061)
(0.040)
(0.060)
(0.038)
(0.018)
(0.018)
(0.021)
(0.019)
(0.061)
(0.038)
(0.009)
(0.009)
(0.009)
(0.009)
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
(I)
(III)
(IV)
(V)
Y
Y
Y
Y
(0.009)
Y
Y
Y
(VI)
(VII)
Y
Y
Y
Y
Conditions of Work
Low-Income
Minority
Y
Y
Y
Y
(VIII)
Y
Y
N
OTE: *, p<0.05; **, p<=0.01; ***, p<=0.001.
45
Table 4. Parameter estimates showing the relationship between teachers’ reported intentions to transfer schools and both conditions of
work and selected student demographic characteristics, with different sets of predictors, from equation (2) (cell entries include
parameter estimates reported as odds ratios, t-statistics, and asterisks to denote inference; n=23,029).
(II)
Panel I: Individual Ratings
CW_TOTAL (individual) 0.271 *** 0.269 *** 0.257 *** 0.290 *** 0.288 ***
Proportion of low-income students 7.025 *** 2.507 ***
Proportion of minority students 5.478 *** 2.034 ***
Student Demographics
Teacher Demographics
School Type
District Fixed Effects
Pseudo R20.074 0.030 0.093 0.124 0.013 0.076 0.012 0.077
-2 Log Likelihood -11827 -12392 -11587 -11191 -12605 -11798 -12613 -11792
Panel II: Peer-Average Ratings
CW_TOTAL (peer-average) 0.290 *** 0.361 *** 0.412 *** 0.363 *** 0.355 ***
Proportion of low-income students 7.025 *** 2.858 ***
Proportion of minority students 5.478 *** 2.659 ***
Student Demographics
Teacher Demographics
School Type
District Fixed Effects
Pseudo R20.022 0.030 0.040 0.070 0.013 0.025 0.012 0.026
-2 Log Likelihood -12493 -12392 -12265 -11881 -12605 -12453 -12613 -12444
[12.929]
[6.673]
[12.205]
[6.964]
[12.205]
[6.349]
[10.361]
[12.555]
[13.292]
Y
Y
[31.291]
[12.929]
[6.008]
[33.987]
[31.527]
[31.385]
[31.005]
Y
Y
Y
Y
[16.957]
[12.140]
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
(V)
(VI)
Y
Y
Y
Y
(VIII)
(I)
(III)
(IV)
Conditions of Work
Low-Income
Minority
(VII)
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
NOTE: *, p<0.05; **, p<=0.01; ***, p<=0.001.
46
Table 5. Parameter estimates showing the relationship between school-level student achievement growth (SGP) and both conditions of
work and selected student demographic characteristics, with different sets of predictors, from equation (3) (cell entries include
parameter estimates, standard errors, and asterisks to denote inference; mathematics, n=1,065; ELA, n=1,064).
(II)
Panel I: Mathematics
CW_TOTAL (school-level) 0.456 *** 0.178 ** 0.153 0.292 *** 0.358 ***
Proportion of low-income students -1.185 *** -0.896 ***
Proportion of minority students -0.886 *** -0.622 ***
Student Demographics
Teacher Demographics
School Type
District Fixed Effects
R20.073 0.223 0.230 0.491 0.091 0.115 0.059 0.098
Panel II: English Language Arts
CW_TOTAL (school-level) 0.547 *** 0.350 *** 0.203 ** 0.357 *** 0.443 ***
Proportion of low-income students -1.395 *** -1.042 ***
Proportion of minority students -0.991 *** -0.664 ***
Student Demographics
Teacher Demographics
School Type
District Fixed Effects
R20.106 0.275 0.473 0.529 0.127 0.164 0.074 0.135
(0.125)
(0.145)
(0.126)
(0.136)
(0.108)
(0.110)
(0.048)
(0.057)
(0.079)
(0.056)
(0.054)
(0.048)
(0.116)
(0.125)
(0.046)
(0.069)
(0.070)
(0.049)
Y
(V)
(III)
(IV)
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
(VII)
Y
Y
Conditions of Work
Low-Income
Minority
(VIII)
(I)
(VI)
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
N
OTE: *, p<0.05; **, p<=0.01; ***, p<=0.001.
47
Table 6. Parameter estimates showing the relationship between nine elements of the work context and teacher
satisfaction, career intentions, and school-level student achievement growth (SGP) from equations (1) (2) and
(3) (cell entries include parameter estimates, standard errors, and asterisks to denote inference; parameter
estimates in columns 2 and 3 are reported as odds ratios with t-statistics).
Colleagues 0.521 *** 0.432 *** 0.136 0.161 *
Community Support 0.382 *** 0.531 *** 0.411 *** 0.406 ***
Facilities 0.278 *** 0.668 *** 0.046 0.078
Governance 0.409 *** 0.507 *** 0.08 0.162 *
Principal 0.511 *** 0.408 *** 0.152 * 0.180 **
Professional Expertise 0.534 *** 0.428 *** 0.065 0.159
Resources 0.303 *** 0.642 *** 0.116 0.139
School Culture 0.543 *** 0.394 *** 0.113 0.169 **
Time 0.262 *** 0.628 *** 0.076 0.048
Sample Size
(0.038)
[3.970]
(0.105)
(0.094)
(0.027)
[4.343]
(0.083)
(0.072)
(0.019)
[13.209]
(0.067)
(0.063)
(0.021)
[11.999]
(0.069)
(0.068)
(0.029)
[9.031]
(0.095)
(0.082)
(0.110)
(0.020)
[5.626]
(0.061)
(0.058)
(0.027)
[6.682]
(0.080)
(0.069)
1,065
1,064
Satisfaction
(0.022)
[9.890]
(0.076)
(0.068)
(0.039)
[4.889]
(0.121)
Transfer
Peer-Average
25,019
School Average
23,029
SGP Math
SGP ELA
NOTE: *, p<0.05; **, p<=0.01; ***, p<=0.001. Each regression includes the full set of student demographic, teacher demographic
and school type controls as well as fixed effects for districts.
48
Table 7. Pearson product moment correlations for peer-average ratings of nine elements of the work context and an overall composite
measure of the conditions of work (n=25,135).
CW_TOTAL
Colleagues
Community
Support
Facilities Governance Principal
Professional
Expertise
Resources
School
Culture
Time
CW_TOTAL 1.000
Colleagues 0.825 1.000
Community Support 0.735 0.457 1.000
Facilities 0.705 0.425 0.487 1.000
Governance 0.811 0.699 0.577 0.392 1.000
Principal 0.838 0.874 0.463 0.450 0.700 1.000
Professional Expertise 0.813 0.562 0.586 0.459 0.743 0.617 1.000
Resources 0.732 0.463 0.533 0.697 0.455 0.449 0.490 1.000
School Culture 0.819 0.832 0.514 0.435 0.653 0.891 0.620 0.403 1.000
Time 0.503 0.344 0.257 0.307 0.302 0.294 0.488 0.388 0.233 1.000
A-
1
Appendix A. Context of Work Measures and Survey Questions
Colleagues (α=0.732)
Q2.1(b) Teachers have time available to collaborate with their colleagues.
Q4.1(c) In this school, we take steps to solve problems.
Q4.1(d) The faculty has an effective process for making group decisions to solve problems.
Q6.8 Teachers are provided opportunities to learn from one another.
Q7.1(d) Teachers are held to high professional standards for delivering instruction.
Time Use (α=0.737)
Q2.1(c) The non-instructional time* provided for teachers in my school is sufficient. *Non-instructional time includes any time
during the day without student conduct, including collaboration planning, meetings/conferences with students and
families, etc.
Q2.1(d) Teachers have sufficient instructional time to meet the needs of all students.
Q2.1(e) Teachers have sufficient instructional time to complete the curriculum for their subject(s) and/or grade.
Resources (α=0.811)
Q3.1(a) Teachers have sufficient access to appropriate instructional materials* and resources. *Instructional materials include
items such as textbooks, curriculum materials, content references, etc.
Q3.1(b) Teachers have sufficient access to instructional technology, including computers, printers, software and internet access.
Q3.1(c) Teachers have access to reliable communication technology including phones, faxes and email.
Q3.1(d) Teachers have sufficient training and support to fully utilize the available instructional technology.
Q3.1(i) Teachers have sufficient access to a broad range of professional support (professional) personnel*. *Support personnel
includes positions such as school counselors, nurses, school psychologists and social workers, library media
specialists.
Facilities (α=0.731)
Q3.1(e) Teachers have adequate professional space to work productively.
Q3.1(f) Teachers and staff work in a school environment that is physically safe.
Q3.1(h) Teachers and staff work in a school environment that is clean and well maintained.
Governance (α=0.804)
Q4.1(a) Teachers are meaningfully involved in decision making about educational issues.
Q4.2 Please indicate how large a role teachers have at your school in each of the following areas:
(b) Shaping the schedule of the school day
(c) Deciding how the school budget will be spent
(d) Establishing and implementing policies related to student discipline
(e) Hiring of new teachers
A-
2
(f) Determining the content of in-service professional development programs
Professional Expertise (α=0.824)
Q4.1(b) Teachers are trusted to make sound professional decisions about instruction.
Q4.1(e) Teachers are recognized as educational experts.
Q4.2 Please indicate how large a role teachers have at your school in each of the following areas:
(g) Setting grading and student assessment practices
(h) Devising teaching techniques
(i) Selecting instructional materials and resources
Principal (α=0.933)
Q5.2(a) School leadership* shields teachers from disruptions, allowing teachers to focus on educating students. *School
leadership is an individual, group of individuals or team within the school that focuses on managing a complex
operation. This may involve scheduling; ensuring a safe school environment; reporting on students’ academic, social
and behavioral performance; using resources to provide the textbooks and instructional materials necessary for
teaching and learning; overseeing the care and maintenance of the physical plant; developing and implementing the
school budget.
Q5.2(c) The school leadership consistently enforces rules for student conduct.
Q5.2(e) Teachers receive feedback that can help them improve teaching.
Q5.3 The school leadership makes a sustained effort to address teacher concerns about:
(a) Teaching and learning issues
(b) Leadership issues
(c) Facilities and resources
(d) The use of time in my school
(e) Professional development
(f) Empowering teachers
(g) New teacher support
Community Support (α=0.749)
Q.4.1(h) Teachers are supported by the community in which they teach.
Q4.1(i) Families help students achieve educational goals in this school.
School Culture (α=0.766)
Q5.2(b) Teachers feel comfortable raising issues and concerns that are important to them.
Q7.1(a) There is an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect within the school.
Q7.1(b) Clear expectations are communicated to students and families.
Q7.1(c) The faculty are committed to helping every student learn.
A-
3
Table A-1. Parameter estimates showing the relationship between teachers’ reported intentions to leave teaching and both conditions
of work and selected student demographic characteristics, with different sets of predictors, from equation (2) (cell entries include
parameter estimates reported as odds ratios, t-statistics, and asterisks to denote inference; n=23,029).
(II)
Panel I: Individual Ratings
CW_TOTAL (individual) 0.658 *** 0.657 *** 0.640 *** 0.662 *** 0.665 ***
Proportion of low-income students 1.594 *** 1.106
Proportion of minority students 1.623 *** 1.237 *
Student Demographics
Teacher Demographics
School Type
District Fixed Effects
Pseudo R20.074 0.030 0.093 0.124 0.013 0.076 0.012 0.077
-2 Log Likelihood -11827 -12392 -11587 -11191 -12605 -11798 -12613 -11792
Panel II: Peer-Average Ratings
CW_TOTAL (peer-average) 0.825 *** 0.862 *** 0.936 0.879 ** 0.879 **
Proportion of low-income students 1.594 *** 1.410 ***
Proportion of minority students 1.623 *** 1.476 ***
Student Demographics
Teacher Demographics
School Type
District Fixed Effects
Pseudo R20.022 0.030 0.040 0.070 0.013 0.025 0.012 0.026
-2 Log Likelihood -12493 -12392 -12265 -11881 -12605 -12453 -12613 -12444
[6.234]
[2.541]
[6.234]
[4.730]
[17.895]
[17.620]
[17.522]
[17.271]
[17.020]
[2.940]
[5.587]
[3.910]
[4.638]
[3.368]
[1.305]
[2.918]
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
(VIII)
(I)
(III)
(IV)
Conditions of Work
Low-Income
Minority
(V)
(VI)
(VII)
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
[5.587]
[1.155]
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
NOTE: *, p<0.05; **, p<=0.01; ***, p<=0.001.
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