Essays on Human Capital in Turnaround Schools
Pham, Lam Dinh Son
School reform efforts aimed at turning around chronically low-performing schools have received substantial policy and research attention. One common turnaround intervention requires schools to replace teachers, under the theory that newly-hired teachers will be effective educators who can support the improvement process. In this three-essay dissertation, I study low-performing schools in Tennessee to examine different aspects of turnaround interventions that require teacher replacements. In the first paper, I examine a sequential mediation model to better understand how newly hired teachers affect the culture and climate in turnaround schools and whether these changes mediate the effect of reforms. I find that peer collaboration among teachers, a more orderly learning environment, and the retention of effective teachers are important practices that likely facilitate improved school performance. In the second essay, I examine teacher effectiveness after they transfer into turnaround schools. I find that teacher effectiveness can change when they move into a different school, suggesting that school reform efforts should consider ways to not only recruit effective teachers but also create an environment where they can succeed once they arrive. In the third essay, I examine unintended spillover effects from teachers who transfer into different schools when their school begins turnaround. I find that teachers who transfer after reforms are implemented fare better than teachers who transferred from these same schools pre-reforms, suggesting positive spillover effects. Together, these three essays provide a more nuanced picture of the school reform process, indicating that future reform efforts relying on teacher replacement interventions should attend to supporting teachers after they transfer.