Nearly everyone involved in the enterprise of schooling understands the profound importance of building and sustaining a high-quality team of teachers. Moreover, the research is clear: the single most important school-based determinant of student achievement is the quality of the teacher in the classroom. Yet, urban schools must often staff their classrooms with little or no attention to quality or fit because of the staffing rules in their teachers union contracts.
This report focuses on the contractual staffing rules governing "voluntary transfers" and "excessed teachers." Voluntary transfers are incumbent teachers who want to move between schools in a district, while excessed teachers are those cut from a specific school, often in response to declines in budget or student enrollment.
To better understand the impact of the voluntary transfer and excess rules on urban schools, The New Teacher Project studied five representative urban districts (we identify them as the Eastern, Mid-Atlantic, Midwestern, Southern, and Western districts). Within each district, we extensively analyzed data for internal teacher movements and new teacher hires. We complemented our data analyses with principal surveys in the Eastern and Western districts, and interviews of school and central staff in all districts. Our findings demonstrate the extent to which these rules undermine the ability of urban schools to hire and keep the best possible teachers for the job.
In focusing our report on the adverse effects of the current transfer and excess rules, we are not minimizing the unfair practices that led to their adoption or the other staffing barriers urban schools face, in such areas as school leadership, human resources, and budgeting. We will argue, however, that without significant change to these staffing rules, another generation of urban students will bear the cost of well-intentioned, but ultimately inadequate, school improvement efforts.