Skip to content

Louisiana Research: When Tenure Ends, Teachers Leave.

February 22, 2017

In 2012, the Louisiana legislature passed Act 1, commonly known as the “teacher tenure law.” Moreover, the Louisiana State Department of Education (LDOE) has translated Act 1 into an evaluation system whereby 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation is connected to “student learning”– the bottom line of which is student test score outcomes.

Act 1 began in 2012 as House Bill 974. The reason it is called Act 1 is that the 2012 Louisiana legislature rammed it though as the first act, with calculated speed, amid an atmosphere dripping with then-Governor Bobby Jindal’s business-and-industry-backed intention to bring “accountability” in the evaluating of the state’s teachers.

Once 2012 hit, Louisiana teachers began considering how and when to leave the profession. And each year beginning with 2012, Louisiana’s teacher workforce has experienced a noticeable exit of many experienced, seasoned teachers who otherwise would not have likely chosen to leave the profession so soon.

Thus, it comes as no surprise to me that a February 22, 2017, study by the Education Research Alliance (ERA) for New Orleans has found that based on teacher data from 2005 to 2012, Louisiana teachers did indeed begin leaving at a more notable rate, with those retirement-eligible comprising the greatest number of exiters.

Having 25+ years of employment, this group also happened to be the most experienced.

Moreover, it should come as no surprise that schools graded “F” lost the highest number of teachers in the post-Act-1 exit.

And the zinger, to quote from the study:

Though we cannot address the effects of this policy change on its main target, teacher quality, these effects on turnover rates are important in themselves. [Emphasis added.]

In short, the foolish assault on teachers and the asinine practice of trying to measure their worth in the lives of their students, schools, and communities via idolized test score gains has produced the critical side effect of crippling the teacher work force– with a built-in incentive for districts to hire cheaper, less experienced replacements– if they can continue to find them.

From the study discussion:

Our estimates suggest that the tenure reform is responsible for the exit of 1,500 to 1,700 teachers in the first two years after the removal of tenure protections, a loss of 3.0 to 3.5% of Louisiana’s teacher workforce. Future research is needed to estimate the long-term effects on teacher vacancies, the teaching profession, and the intended goal of school improvement through teacher quality.

These findings have a variety of fiscal and educational implications. The tenure reform created substantial churn in the Louisiana teacher workforce. Any sudden increase in teacher exit rates places a burden on school districts to fill vacancies with qualified replacements. Ideally, tenure reform would trigger the exit of less effective teachers, but that still leaves the challenge of replacement. States considering similar reforms should prepare to fill more vacant positions than usual in the initial years of implementation. Moreover, studies suggest that teacher turnover is detrimental to school culture and student performance. States should consider how reform-induced churn may impact schools and students, especially in low-performing schools where turnover effects are greatest.

States considering tenure reform should also consider the fiscal costs. Studies suggest that it costs between $4,000-18,000 to recruit, hire, and prepare a new teacher, depending on the context. Reform-induced exits may cause substantial short-term costs to hire replacement teachers. In addition, we find that teachers who can immediately access full pension payments are more likely to exit than teachers who cannot. While retirement decisions are driven largely by the financial incentives of the retirement system and broader economic forces such as the unemployment rate, it appears the tenure policy had an additional and separate effect. State pension systems must be able to absorb a sudden increase in retirements. However, at the school district level, increased retirements could reduce pressure on school budgets if replacement teachers are less experienced and, therefore, lower paid. …

Tenure clearly matters to teachers, and research clearly shows that teachers are important to students.

Though the researchers conclude that “tenure clearly matters to teachers,” a statement at the outset of the study makes it seem as though teachers who want to escape the misuse of student test scores as a threat to job security could somehow be placated by other means:

Our results support prior findings that teachers value the job security that tenure provides. In places where the supply of teachers is already limited, districts may need to provide higher teacher salaries or improve working conditions to make up for the diminished job security that accompanies tenure reform.

Louisiana is in a budget crisis, largely created by the choices of the same governor who pushed Act 1– Bobby Jindal. Higher teacher salaries are not a reality for many districts. Retaining teaching positions is more the order of the day. As for improved working conditions– in many cases, such improvements (e.g., smaller class sizes, adequate time for planning and collaboration, sufficient classroom materials and space) also require the funding to back them.

Still, for many teachers, the answer is simple:

Stop trying to grade us, our schools, and our districts using test scores. Such practices might be popular, but they are not nor never have been valid. I have yet to encounter a standardized testing company that advertises its student tests as appropriate for grading teachers and institutions. There’s a reason for that: The testing companies know full well that such faulty guarantees would make them liable for a practice that has never been anything other than doomed.

If Louisiana wants to curtail a serious teacher shortage in upcoming years, it must stop this twisted teacher grading scheme.



Want to read more about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. Given a good teacher a student may learn; for politicians there is no hope.

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    No big surprise, today’s Wall Street Journal rants against charter teachers who want to join unions.
    Two decades of demeaning teachers and people wonder why they are leaving.?

  3. Jack Covey permalink

    Remember that poster child for corporate ed. reforms’ damaging effects of the quality of teachers: Teach for America’s Baye Cobb — whose first year of teaching was captured by Oprah Winfrey’s cameras for the reality TV series ‘BLACKBOARD WARS’?

    Here’s a quick reminder from the Assailed Teacher about Ms. Cobb, and the limitations of teachers being trained for a scant five weeks by the clueless Teach for America organization (complete with embedded videos):

    Google search show that two years in, Cobb left teaching and education altogether (and she’s getting married … congratulations!).

    There’s no sane person who can read the above link and conclude that an endless churn of two-year wonders like Ms. Cobb can be better for children than having a seasoned staff of teachers with decades of experience.

    • Jack Covey permalink

      “There’s no sane person who can read the above link and conclude that an endless churn of two-year wonders like Ms. Cobb can be better for children than having a seasoned staff of teachers with decades of experience.”

      Actually, a representative from S-FER, the astroturf corporate ed. reform group based in universities, said flushing out all current teachers in one fell swoop is the way to go.

      Sane or not, here’s that statement:

      “I actually long for that day when today’s (veteran) teachers get so frustrated they leave the profession. It happens in nursing all the time and that dynamic makes way for innovative nurses who can handle the stress and still provide quality care. The fact that teachers are a protected class and that their unions are characterized by constant hysteria that keep teachers excepted from routine administrative measures that everyone in the private work force has to deal with – evaluations being one example – is helping stir growing resentment even against good teachers. Maybe with a mass exodus, we can accomplish things like the realization that education degrees are not the only degrees that make good teachers, and help restore subject competency, which is sorely lacking with today’s ‘education’ graduates.”

      As a veteran teacher myself, when reading the above quote, I feel like a Jew in Nazi Germany reading Goebbels’ latest diatribe.

      This was also from Assailed Teacher blog at:

      Assailed Teacher responded to the above attack thusly:

      “I would hate to tell this person that, as far as NYC, D.C. and many other major urban school districts are concerned, that day has come and gone. Most teachers in Bloomberg’s Department of Education were hired on his watch that started 10 years ago. Guess what? Schools are no better.

      “At the end of the day, it is about taking pennies out of the pockets of teachers by attempting to deprive us of our livelihoods just so it can be transferred into the pockets of charters and the hedge-fundies that run them.

      “What kind of country is this when working people claim public sector workers like teachers, police and firefighters (but they only mention teachers) should be relegated to the same insecure lifestyle of private sector workers? There was a day when many private sector workers had similar protections like due process that prevented them from being tossed out of a job simply because their bosses did not like their face.

      “And that is what tenure is by the way. It is not a guaranteed job for life as so many misinformed people claim it to be. It means that you must go through a process before being terminated. What’s so hard to understand? These people do not get that the protections that public sector workers get sets the tone, the baseline, for the rest of the workforce.

      “Calling for the wholesale slaughter of teachers is to call for your own slaughter.

      “As the rapacious railroad magnate Jay Gould once said: /I can always get one half of the poor to kill the other half.’ ”

  4. Old Teacher permalink

    Next year will be my last year as Nevada continues the plunge into insanity. I do not care about my last rating (next year), and I will be oblivious to anything related to testing. I will simply teach and use some of my 250 sick days acquired over 21 years. I had hoped to go on, but I see no reason to do so. I have an M.A in Psychology, and of course the companies never claim their tests are valid for their current misuse…..

  5. Like the song: “Louisiana, they’re tryin’ to wash us away…”

  6. Terri permalink

    I have 4 more years until I can retire at 25 years. I always wanted to teach at least 30 years, because it was a job I enjoyed. Just as this article stated, Jindal, along with supertendents, made teaching a very stressful and unenjoyable profession. This is so sad for our great teachers and the students that they teach.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Louisiana Research: When Tenure Ends, Teachers Leave. | IEA Voice
  2. Mercedes Schneider: When Tenure Is Abolished, Teachers Leave | Diane Ravitch's blog
  3. Removing teachers’ job security encourages attrition. – Diane P. Proctor
  4. Ed News, Friday, February 24, 2017 Edition | tigersteach
  5. Links 4/2/17 | Mike the Mad Biologist

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s