Do lower performing teachers get reassigned to untested classrooms?

A new paper finds that teachers with low student test scores often get moved into untested grades such as kindergarten.
A new paper finds that teachers with low student test scores often get moved into untested grades such as kindergarten.
Published Aug. 1, 2017

Many of us can recall that small tome "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten."

Those early years are just that important. They're also free of most high-stakes testing. And a recently released paper from researchers Jason Grissom, Demetra Kalogrides and Susanna Loeb suggests it's where teachers with lower student performance often land.

In their updated version of "Strategic Staffing?", the authors report that the Miami-Dade school district — Florida's largest and the fourth biggest in the nation — often takes strong educators out of K-2 classrooms and places them in tested grades, while reassigning ineffective upper-grades teachers to the lower untested grades.

"It is not clear, however, what effects on students or schools this type of strategic reallocation of low-performing teachers to low-stakes classrooms has over the long term, particularly if those low-stakes classrooms are in earlier grades that feed into later high-stakes classrooms," they write.

"One on hand, the skills necessary to be successful in earlier grades may not be the same as those required to teach older children effectively, and reassignment may positively impact a teacher's performance if it leads to a better match with that teacher's skills. In this case, student achievement will be positively affected. On the other hand, if an ineffective teacher in later grades is also ineffective in earlier grades, such reassignment may have negative longer-run consequences for both students and the school, particularly if student-learning trajectories are affected by the foundations laid in earlier grades. Certainly learning is a cumulative process, and student learning in early grades are strong predictors of achievement in later schooling."

The writers theorized that because Florida starts its testing with third-grade, where students face retention if they fail the reading exam, the lower performing teachers would be moved into kindergarten through second grade. That appeared to be the case.

Although it's just a single district sample, the findings offer some insights into a lesser noticed impact of high-stakes testing, which some parents have fought to reduce in Florida.

Read more about the study in this Atlantic article.