Involuntary teacher transfers can improve school performance, Stanford researchers say

June 25, 2014

By Andrew Myers

A study of Miami-Dade's transfer policy suggests that moving poor-performing teachers into better schools improves equity.

The ability to move teachers, against their wishes, to a different school is a necessary tool, argue school and district leaders, to improve teacher performance and get the right mix of teachers across a district.

But forced transfers remain hotly contested, and critics say the policies only shuffle ineffective teachers to new schools or place them in situations where their skills are underused.

A recent study co-authored by Stanford Graduate School of Education Professor Susanna Loeb examined involuntary teacher transfer in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation’s fourth largest school district.

The study found that the policy benefited schools in Miami-Dade, with gains shown in student test scores and teacher attendance, suggesting that involuntary teacher transfer can improve performance and parity across districts if done strategically.

“Administrators have long argued that assigning teachers to schools is necessary for improving both overall school quality and equity, and this study supports that contention,” said Loeb, the Barnett Family Professor of Education. “The lower performing schools got rid of less effective teachers and replaced them with better teachers.”

The study is among three recent research projects by Loeb and colleagues looking at policy and practice of school leadership. The others examined whether student test scores were an effective way to evaluate principals and if principal time in classrooms benefited student performance. Each study used data sets provided by Miami-Dade through a partnership with the district.