Do Principals Fire the Worst Teachers?

February 2010
Brian Jacob

This paper takes advantage of a unique policy change to examine how principals make decisions regarding teacher dismissal. In 2004, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) signed a new collective bargaining agreement that gave principals the flexibility to dismiss probationary teachers for any reason and without the documentation and hearing process that is typically required for such dismissals. With the cooperation of the CPS, I matched information on all teachers that were eligible for dismissal with records indicating which teachers were dismissed. With this data, I estimate the relative weight that school administrators place on a variety of teacher characteristics. I find evidence that principals do consider teacher absences and value-added measures, along with several demographic characteristics, in determining which teachers to dismiss

Generous financial support was provided by the William T. Grant Foundation. Thanks to Nancy Slavin, Raquel Saucedo, Art Kim, Joshua Garcia, Lauren McClellan, Amy Nowell, Dan Bugler, Ascencion Juarez and Angela Alonzo at the Chicago Public Schools, and to Tim Daly and Andy Sokatch at The New Teacher Project. Thanks to Elias Walsh, Mimi Engel, Sharon Traiberman and Stephanie Rennane for excellent research assistance. Thanks to Kerwin Charles, John Dinardo Lars Lefgren and seminar participants at the University of Michigan for helpful comments and suggestions. Any errors are my own. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.