The Chilean Teacher Labor Market
In Chile, as many other countries, understanding how high-qualified teachers are distributed across schools and which are the relationships that may lead to teachers' potential sorting are key aspect of the teacher labor market and it is central to addressing student achievement gaps. The first paper uses rich new data on all elementary public school teachers in Chile to describe the variation in average teacher attributes across schools, characterize this variation by school and students characteristics, and understand how the variation in the teacher attributes is associated with both teacher school matching at the start of their teachers' careers, as well as by mobility and attrition among teachers in subsequent years. Results show that teachers are unequally distributed across elementary schools in Chile, with higher proportions of less-qualified teachers working in public, and rural schools. Schools with less qualified teachers also tend to enroll higher proportions of low-income and low-performance students. Teacher career paths are clearly associated with the observed unequal distribution of teacher attributes across schools. Less qualified teachers who work in low-income and low-performing schools are more likely to stay in those schools than are high-qualified teachers, while less-qualified teachers who start working in high-income and high-performing schools are less likely than highly-qualified teachers to stay in those schools.
In sum, the first paper concludes that attracting and retaining good teachers for public schools and especially for low-income children must be part of any effort to break the persistent link between poverty and low academic performance in Chile. The second paper aimed to advance these efforts by investigating the relationships between teacher characteristics (e.g teacher quality) and school characteristics on the timing of elementary novice teachers' decision to switch to another public school and to leave teaching in the public school system. Results show that conditioning on teacher and school characteristics, teachers with high academic ability are more likely to leave the public school system than those with lower ability. In addition, the results show that it is not more difficult for serving at-risk children schools to retain teachers with most desirable observable characteristics (e.g higher academic ability) than schools serving not at-risk children. For teachers switching between schools, the study concludes that teachers are more likely to leave low performance schools, public and rural schools. Finally, in terms of the timing, the results show that the hazard of risk of switching schools and leaving the public school system is highest during the earlier stage of the teaching career and very similar for both behaviors. If the goal is to minimize the churn of the least effective teachers to maximize the number of highly effective teachers staying in the public school system, particularly in schools that need them the most, these results suggest that some of the hard debates about teacher preferences and motivations are worthwhile.
In moving forward on this debate, the third paper focuses on the relationship between teacher preferences, teacher effectiveness, working conditions and retention. Specifically,
the paper uses rich new data on all elementary novice public school teachers in Chile to study how school environments influence teacher trajectories. Specifically, this study creates five indicators (teacher influence, principal support, staff relations, facilities, and school safety) of school working conditions to measure aspect of the school environments in which teachers work. The results of this study conclude that teacher working conditions matter a great deal. Teachers who teach in favorable work environments are less likely to switch schools or to leave teaching in public schools than their peers in schools with less favorable conditions, even after controlling for student demographics and other school and teacher characteristics. These findings suggest that a policy focus on the school working conditions may be a worthwhile way to retain high-qualified teachers in public schools, and in most needed schools. It is surely important to attract more qualified teacher candidates into the teacher profession, but if effective teachers are expected to teach in every classroom, schools need to be a supportive and productive workplace where high-qualified teachers want to work and stay