Teacher Absenteeism Down as Principals Get More Autonomy over Teacher Dismissal Decisions
A recent study conducted by NCPI affiliated researcher Brian A. Jacob looked at what happened to teacher absenteeism when principals in Chicago Public Schools were given greater autonomy over teacher dismissal decisions. Ultimately, it informs the economic literatures on employment protection policies and teacher incentives. The paper also suggests that giving more autonomy to principals may alone be insufficient to change employment relations systemically. Other factors, such as school culture and supply and demand for teachers, influence principals’ willingness to experiment with nontraditional employment practices.
Jacob is the Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Education Policy, Professor of Economics, and Director of the Center on Local, State and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. In his paper, entitled The Effect of Employment Protection on Worker Effort: Evidence from Public Schooling, he discusses how teacher absences decreased by about 10 percent when the new policy was implemented during the 2006-07 school year.
Starting in the 2004-05 school year, Chicago Public Schools implemented a policy that enabled principals to dismiss teachers with five or fewer years of experience without filing lengthy documentation or attending dismissal hearings. Providing principals with greater flexibility led to a decline in teacher absences, most notably among elementary teachers, teachers in low-achieving, predominantly African American high schools, and among teachers with high predicted absences.
Nonetheless, Jacob also discovered a sense of reluctance among many principals in Chicago Public Schools to actually use the additional flexibility available to them. This speaks to the potential influence that social norms and teacher supply also have over employment relations in schools.
This study makes several important contributions to education policy. It informs the economic literatures on employment protection policies and teacher incentives, especially given the impact on teacher behavior following the introduction of this policy in Chicago. The paper also suggests that greater autonomy for principals alone may be insufficient to change employment relations systemically. Other factors such as school culture and the demand for teachers – particularly in urban school settings – influence principals’ willingness to experiment with nontraditional employment practices.