Can a District-Level Teacher Salary Incentive Policy Improve Teacher Recruitment and Retention?
In this policy brief Heather Hough and Susanna Loeb examine the effect of the Quality Teacher and Education Act of 2008 (QTEA) on teacher recruitment, retention, and overall teacher quality in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). They provide evidence that a salary increase can improve a school district’s attractiveness within their local teacher labor market and increase both the size and quality of the teacher applicant pool. They also provide evidence that targeted salary increases can increase the quality of new-hires. QTEA salary increases did not affect teacher retention, however, perhaps because the implementation of QTEA coincided with a major economic downturn that made many workers, including teachers, reluctant to leave their jobs. As Hough and Loeb note, higher salaries can attract a stronger pool of teachers, but the district still must hire strategically from the pool and work to retain the high quality teachers they recruit. In addition, for a policy like QTEA to be effective, teachers must have confidence that the policy will remain in place. Frequent changes in budgets and leadership priorities in many districts have led teachers to expect the opposite. The Local Control Funding Formula recently adopted in California can help to ensure that districts serving the most disadvantaged students have the money available to pay their teachers more, not less, than nearby districts that are considered easier places to work. The evidence presented in this policy brief suggests that adopting policies like QTEA that increase teacher salaries can make urban school districts more competitive with more prosperous nearby school districts, which can lead to improvements in the quality of their teaching force and in the outcomes of the students they serve.