Katharine O. Strunk's research while affiliated with Michigan State University and other places

Publications (54)

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Over the last decade, policymakers have been experimenting with competency-based education, an instructional reform that relies on flexible pacing to enable students to achieve content mastery at their own pace. In this paper, we draw on mixed-methods data from teacher surveys and interviews to examine the use of flexible instructional pacing in fi...
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Research on teacher churn has produced conflicting conclusions as to its impact on students and teachers. We bring clarity to this work by combining and expanding on analytical approaches used in earlier research to determine how and when different types of churn (i.e., grade, school) impact teacher effectiveness and attendance. Using data from the...
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In this paper we use data from Michigan and Washington on COVID case rates at the county level linked to information on the instructional modality offered by local public school districts during the 2020/2021 school year to assess the relationship between modality and COVID spread. We focus primarily on COVID case rates, but also provide estimates...
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In many school districts, the policies that regulate teaching personnel are governed by collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). While there is significant policy attention that has affected the scope of these agreements, there is relatively little research on how CBAs vary over time, or whether they change in response to states’ legislative reform...
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How did political factors and public health affect state and local education decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the continuation of in-person schooling? Using an original data set of state policies, we find that governors ordered school closures in spring 2020 but left decisions to districts in the fall, regardless of partisanship....
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In recent years, many states have adopted policies to ensure students are reading proficiently by third grade. This kind of policy transfer across states is not a unique phenomenon; researchers have documented analogous proliferations of similar policies both in and outside the field of education. However, there has been little attention paid to ho...
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A number of districts are moving toward a portfolio management model, in which central offices act as “portfolio managers” (PMs) that oversee—but may not actively manage—publicly funded schools. Using principal-agent theory, with its focus on goal alignment and the use of incentives, we explore how PMs operated in ways distinct from traditional dis...
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Most teachers have tenure protections that constrain dismissal. Some argue that tenure improves recruitment and retention by mitigating the risk of monopsony employment and substituting job security for lower salaries. Others argue that tenure reduces performance incentives making it difficult to dismiss ineffective teachers. We examine supply-side...
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Over the past decade, many states enacted substantial reforms to teacher-related laws and policies. In Michigan, the state legislature implemented requirements for teacher evaluation based partly on student achievement, reduced tenure protections, and restricted the scope of teacher collective bargaining. Some teacher advocates view such reform as...
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Districts are relying on school autonomy to help schools differentiate educational programming for students and improve low-performing schools, yet we know little about how schools use autonomy in practice. Drawing on school case study and principal survey data from the Los Angeles Unified School District, we find variation in perceived school lead...
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Background/Context School leaders are central to state and district human-capital reforms (HCRs), yet they are rarely equipped with the skills to implement new evaluation, professional development, and personnel data systems. Although districts increasingly offer principals coaching and training, there has been limited empirical work on how these s...
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Although most students with disabilities (SWDs) receive instruction from general education teachers, little empirical work has investigated whether these students have suitable access to high-quality teachers. We explore the differences in teacher quality experienced by SWDs and students without disabilities (non-SWDs) in the Los Angeles Unified Sc...
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Using unique data from California on teacher job vacancies, we investigate staffing challenges across the urbanicity spectrum, focusing on the extent to which the characteristics of rural school systems explain the differences in staffing challenges as measured by vacancy rates and emergency credentialed teachers, relative to other urbanicities. We...
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In recent years, some U.S. school districts have shifted away from direct management of schools, toward systems in which some or all schools operate under enhanced autonomy, accountability, and parental choice. Yet dynamics driving these changes are understudied, and there are few comparative studies of system-level governance shifts. To address th...
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Novice teachers’ professional contexts may have important implications for their effectiveness, development, and retention. However, due to data limitations, descriptions of these contexts are often unidimensional or vague. Using 10 years of administrative data from the Los Angeles Unified School District, we describe patterns of new teacher sortin...
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Many schools and districts have considerable discretion when hiring teachers, yet little is known about how that discretion should be used. Using data from a new teacher screening system in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), we find that performance during screening, and especially performance on specific screening assessments, is sig...
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We examine the effect of Michigan’s 2011 reforms to teacher evaluation and tenure policies on teacher retention. Our data are drawn from administrative records containing the population of public school employees from 2005–2006 through 2014–2015. To identify the causal effects of these reforms on teacher attrition, we utilize a difference-in-differ...
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This article examines how teacher collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), teacher salaries, and class sizes changed during the Great Recession. Using a district-level data set of California teacher CBAs that includes measures of subarea contract strength and salaries from 2005–2006 and 2011–2012 tied to district-level longitudinal data, we estimat...
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Few studies examine employee responses to layoff‐induced unemployment risk; none that we know of quantify the impact of job insecurity on individual employee productivity. Using data from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and Washington State during the Great Recession, we provide the first evidence about the impact of the layoff proc...
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This paper revisits the relationship between teacher collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) and student achievement. Using a district-level dataset of California teacher CBAs that includes measures of overall and subarea contract strength linked to district-level panel data, we build on prior work by controlling for unobserved fixed and time-varyi...
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In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Orleans Parish school district fired over 4,000 public school teachers as the city underwent a transition to a market-based system of charter schools. Using administrative data, we examine whether and how these teachers returned to public school employment and teaching. We estimate that school reform and d...
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To address disproportionalities in suspensions for students of color, many districts have prohibited schools from suspending students for willful defiance of school authorities and implemented restorative justice programs (RJP) that address student misconduct using alternative conflict resolution practices. However, there is limited evidence on the...
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There is considerable speculation and some empirical evidence that teacher collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) in urban school districts are more restrictive to district administrators than CBAs in other districts. We build on prior work by comparing urban with nonurban CBAs in three states—California, Michigan, and Washington—and, for a set of...
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Although multiple-measure teacher evaluation systems have gained popularity in the United States, few studies have examined their implementation or how they are shaped by organizational context. New Orleans provides a strategic case to examine the enactment of a state teacher evaluation policy in a highly decentralized setting with variation in org...
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This paper examines the effects of strategic new school openings (SNSOs) on student achievement at brand new (“relief”) campuses built to alleviate overcrowding at neighboring “feeder” campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). We focus on a subset of schools involved in LAUSD's Public School Choice Initiative (PSCI), which aimed...
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We examine more than 1,000 collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) in place across California, Michigan, and Washington. We investigate the prevalence of a set of 43 key provisions between and within these states, providing the first comprehensive comparison of CBA terms using data drawn from economically and demographically different districts, as...
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Massive funding cuts to public education took place around the country following the Great Recession. Many school districts were forced to conduct teacher layoffs at a larger scale than any other time in recent history. We show that prior to a district intervention, the layoff process disproportionately impacted historically disadvantaged students...
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One consequence of the Great Recession is that teacher layoffs occurred at a scale previously unseen. In this article, we assess the effects of receiving a layoff notice on teacher mobility using data from Los Angeles and Washington State. Our analyses are based on 6-year panels of data in each site, including 4 years of layoffs. We find that the l...
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School reconstitution, a turnaround strategy that prescribes massive staffing turnover, is expected to result in more committed and capable school staff and innovative practices. However, little evidence supports this assumption. We use quasi-experimental designs to assess the impact of reconstitution on student achievement and teacher mobility, fi...
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We examine the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Public School Choice Initiative (PSCI), which sought to turnaround the district’s lowest-performing schools. We ask whether school turnaround impacted student outcomes, and what explains variations in outcomes across reform cohorts. We use a Comparative Interrupted Time Series approach using admi...
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Purpose: A common strategy used in school improvement efforts is a mandated process of formal planning, yet little is known about the quality of plans or the relationship between plan quality and implementation. This mixed-methods article investigates plan quality, factors associated with plan quality, and the relationship between plan quality and...
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In this paper we consider more than three decades of research on teachers' unions in the United States. We focus on unions' role as potential rent-seekers in the K-12 educational landscape, and specifically how teachers' unions impact district and student outcomes. We review important methodological improvements in the identification of union impac...
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There is increasing policy interest in the use of standards-based multiple measure teacher evaluation systems that include both observational and value-added measures of teacher effectiveness. The growing literature that assesses the relationships between these measures does so mainly in academic settings using a validity lens. While valuable in th...
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The theory of action upon which high-stakes accountability policies are based calls for systemic reforms in educational systems that will emerge by pairing incentives for improvement with extensive and targeted technical assistance (TA) to build the capacity of low-performing schools and districts. To this end, a little discussed and often overlook...
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This article examines parent engagement in a Los Angeles portfolio district reform. Based on data from a 3-year study, we use the lens of democratic theory to examine the design and implementation of mechanisms seeking parent input in the selection of plans to operate low-performing and new schools. We find that despite significant efforts to move...
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One of the enduring problems in education is the persistence of achievement gaps between White, wealthy, native English-speaking students and their counterparts who are minority, lower-income, or English language learners. This study shows that one intensive technical assistance (TA) intervention-California's District Assistance and Intervention Te...
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Purpose Despite the popularity of school “turnaround” and “portfolio district” management as solutions to low performance, there has been limited research on these strategies. The purpose of this paper is to address this gap by exploring the strategic case of Los Angeles Unified School District's Public School Choice Initiative (PSCI) which combine...
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In this paper, we explore the use and efficacy of fiscal incentive policies in California school districts. We ask whether districts with high need for teachers with English as a second language (ESL) or special education credentials are more likely to implement incentives targeting these teachers. We find mixed evidence that districts align their...
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Background: Many district and school leaders experience difficulties staffing their classrooms with qualified teachers. Economic incentives may motivate teachers to enter and remain in the workforce and entice teachers to work in less desirable districts and schools. However, very little is known about incentives in use, how they are used to addres...
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The authors of this article are engaged in an ongoing pilot implementation and study of the Los Angeles Unified School District's (LAUSD) Educator Growth and Development Cycle, known as EGDC. LAUSD implemented the EDGC pilot in the 2011-12 school year, focusing on a small subset of volunteering school administrators and teachers. The district's exp...
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This study examines the relative distribution of salary schedule returns to experience for beginning and veteran teachers. We argue that districts are likely to benefit from structuring salary schedules with greater experience returns early in the teaching career. To test this hypothesis, we match salary data to school-level student performance dat...
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Purpose: This study examines policies set in the collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) negotiated between teachers’ unions and school boards and explores what kinds of districts have contract provisions that restrict district administrators, enhance administrative flexibility, and/or improve teachers’ professional work lives and that have contrac...
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Increased spending and decreased student performance have been attributed in part to teachers' unions and to the collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) they negotiate with school boards. However, only recently have researchers begun to examine impacts of specific aspects of CBAs on student and district outcomes. This article uses a unique measure...
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The authors examine how the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiated between teachers’ unions and districts is associated with schools’ and districts’ performance under accountability pressures in California. They find that CBA restrictiveness is associated with the increased likelihood that districts will be in Program Improvement (PI) and...
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:Many districts and schools have trouble recruiting and retaining teachers who have the necessary credentials and skills to meet the needs of their students. This trend is particularly severe in low-income, "high-needs" schools and districts. As such, districts and schools are implementing policies that are intended to reform compensation in order...
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The literature on teachers’ unions is relatively silent about the role of union strength in affecting important outcomes, due in large part to the difficulty in measuring union strength. In this article, we illustrate a method for obtaining valid, reliable, and replicable measures of union strength through the use of a Partial Independence Item Res...
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Full-text available
A substantial amount of school district policy is set in the collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) negotiated between teachers’ unions and districts. Although previous studies have assumed that CBA provisions bargained by unions are a primary mechanism connecting union strength to outcomes for teachers and students, research has not yet addressed...
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Professional development and teacher education policies have the potential to greatly affect teachers' abilities to teach and, as a result, students' abilities to learn. States can play varied roles in the provision of teacher education and professional development. This policy brief summarizes states' policy approaches to teacher professional deve...
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This article examines the interaction between school accountability and local control over revenue raising and resource allocation. In particular, it asks whether accountability policies are more or less effective at improving student outcomes in states with stronger local control. Local control is operationalized with multiple measures, including...

Citations

... They found that when the local hospitalization rate prior to reopening was less than about 40 per 100,000 per week (which was 75% of all US school districts at that time), opening schools had no effect on hospitalization rates over a six-week period. 17 A similar study by Goldharber et al. (2022) looked at districts in Michigan and Washington; they found that school reopenings in fall 2020 had no effect on community hospitalizations or deaths. 18 Admittedly, the Goldharber study did find some evidence that reopening led to modest increases in case-rates when pre-existing rates were high. ...
... Required or permitted in 45 states (Sanes & Schmittt, 2014), collective bargaining negotiations establish legally binding contracts that dictate workplace procedures that impact every aspect of teachers' work (e.g., teacher compensation, class size, leaves, seniority and staffing, the school day and year schedule, and general working conditions; Eberts, 2007;Hill, 2006;Strunk, 2012). Furthermore, research suggests that CBAs are fairly inflexible to change (Cowen & Fowles, 2013;Ingle & Wisman, 2018;McDonnell & Pascal, 1979;Strunk, et al., 2019). Once established, contract provisions can only be altered through subsequent negotiations, and the working conditions and compensation levels ensconced therein are difficult to alter as unions and district administrators are resistant to cede ground on the protections they have secured. ...
... But there have also been substantial instructional challenges during the pandemic (Grossman et al., 2021). Early insight into the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on public schooling identified the challenges that schools faced in the pivot to online learning in spring 2020. ...
... Other studies have considered the effects of removing or limiting tenure protections on teacher exit (Strunk, Barrett, and Lincove 2017;Brunner et al. 2019), but few have directly linked the removal of tenure protections to student outcomes. In the only study of which we know on the latter topic, Carruthers, Figlio, and Sass (2018) estimate the short-run impacts of the full removal of tenure protections in Florida in 2011. ...
... Some exceptional programs, which involve frequent feedback from master teachers 24 or very generous financial incentives 25 , have been found to improve teacher performance. But more typical examples of this approach have produced mixed 26 or null results 27,28 Further, although evidence suggests that evaluation-and-accountability programs can improve teacher practice under certain conditions, we have good theoretical reasons to doubt that they are well suited to encourage teaching practices that support a growth mindset. Specifically, evaluation-and-accountability systems assume a transactional understanding of teaching. ...
... While SIPs are not a new concept, application varies, and they are often not used as an integrated, authentic practice (see Acton, 2021;Hashim et al., 2021). SIPs should engage the entire school community with a vision for constant evaluation of structures and practices related to student learning. ...
... However, more than the centralised dynamics of policy and decision-making regarding school closures, it is equally important to understand how school staff enact such policies and how these "street-level bureaucrats" are active agents whose priorities and concerns must be heard and addressed (Taylor 2007;Trinidad 2019). Although research on teachers' interaction with and within organisations has been extensive (Ingersoll 2001;Conley and Glasman 2008;Ball 2012), specific research on teachers during times of societal crises-such as recessionstend to focus on financial, bargaining, and employment outcomes (Strunk and Marianno 2019;Goldhaber et al. 2016;Simpkins, Roza, and Simburg 2012). However, teaching does continue during times of crises, and the experience and priorities of educators on the ground need to be documented and theorised to understand how they make sense and function during a time of societal crisis. ...
... Excluida esta variable, es el papel del profesor claramente lo más relevante, por encima de otras variables como el número de alumnos por aula, o el equipamiento. Esta importancia del profesor ha sido ampliamente refrendada por la literatura empírica más actual y en todos los ámbitos (Rivkin et al., 2005;Fauth, et al., 2019;Liu y Loeb, 2021) así como el efecto que tiene no poder acceder a buenos maestros, que es una manera inversa de demostrar lo mismo (Lai et al., 2020). ...
... For example, low-income students are more likely to attend high schools with high concentrations of poverty and fewer financial resources that influence education quality (EdBuild, 2019). Many lowincome schools employ fewer highly qualified and credentialed teachers than schools located in wealthier districts (Carver-Thomas, Kini, & Burns, 2020;Darling-Hammond, Goldhaber, Strunk, & Sutcher, 2018;Goldhaber, Strunk, Brown, Naito, & Wolff, 2020). Students at low-income schools have access to fewer college preparatory courses that put students on pathways to higher education attainment, and low-income schools offer limited access to resources to help students navigate transition pathways to higher education, such as access to counselors or academic advisors (Children Now, 2019;Johnson & Cuellar Mejia, 2020b). ...
... To help us make sense of how superintendents perceived the organization of (arch) diocesan school systems and the capacity these systems have for sustaining educational change over time, our analysis was informed by empirical research about the state of Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the U.S. as well as conceptual and theoretical perspectives cutting across the fields of educational leadership (e.g., Spillane et al., 2019), educational policy (e.g., Marsh et al., 2021), and educational change (e.g., Daly & Finnigan, 2016). ...