Improving the Teacher Pipeline in the Bronx: Examining the Impact of New York City’s Teacher and School Leaders Program
By Luis A. Rodriguez, Chelsea Farley, Lisa Merrill, and Reggie Gillard (2022)
For many years, schools in the Bronx have faced challenges related to teacher recruitment and retention, as well as student achievement. In 2017, to address these issues, the New York City Department of Education launched the Teacher and School Leaders Bronx Human Capital Initiative (TSL). TSL was designed to help build a “highly prepared, committed and diverse” teaching pipeline, retain effective teachers, and support strong recruitment and retention practices in 363 schools across the borough. These schools employed about 17,000 teachers and served over 230,000 students. Nearly all the schools (96 percent) were classified as high economic need, reflecting heavy concentrations of poverty in surrounding communities. The schools served large numbers of English Language Learners and students with special needs.
The Research Alliance undertook an evaluation to examine TSL’s impact on teacher and student outcomes. Key findings from the study include:
- TSL improved teacher retention. We found that teachers who participated in any of the major TSL programs—Teaching Academies, Teacher Leadership, or Pre-Budget Hiring—were more likely to stay at their school than similar teachers who did not participate in TSL. The Teacher Leadership program, in particular, also had school-wide effects. This program aims to identify and support effectively rated teachers who are then tasked with modeling instructional practices and leading school-wide improvement initiatives. We found that schools with Teacher Leaders had annual retention rates that were about 2 percentage points higher than similar schools without the program.
- The Teacher Leadership program enhanced Teacher Leaders’ effectiveness. Teachers who served as Teacher Leaders were not only more likely to stay at their school; they also scored consistently higher on teacher effectiveness measures, compared with similar teachers who didn’t participate in the program.
- TSL did not affect school-level student outcomes. We did not find a relationship between schools’ participation in TSL and their students’ outcomes. This may be in part because we were not able to link students to individual teachers and looked instead at school-wide differences. We do not know if individual TSL teachers had a measureable impact on the outcomes of students in their classes.
Taken together, these findings suggest that TSL added real value, especially in terms of reducing teacher turnover. High-needs schools often experience a churn of teachers, which can prevent the development of relationships, routines, and culture necessary to perform at a high level. TSL’s positive effect on teacher retention bodes well for similar future efforts.
Reflections on the Study
In 2017, the NYC Department of Education embarked on an unprecedented mission to build and sustain evidence-based teacher retention and quality programs in all Bronx schools. The comprehensive strategy was collaboratively designed and implemented with each community school district and local stakeholders to tailor the programs to each district’s needs. By 2021, together, we scaled three of the programs in hundreds of schools with thousands of teachers, while continuously learning how to shape them most effectively for results that impact teaching and learning. Scaling of this size has received extensive discussion, but too often it is not informed by empirical evaluation.
The scale and promising early implementation of the strategy demanded evaluation of the outcomes to provide replication insights not only for our school system, but also for education as a whole. The Research Alliance’s evaluation and its careful methodology, comparing teachers and schools who participated with similar teachers and schools who did not, yielded pronounced and critical insights. The study’s findings substantiated that our Teacher Leadership initiative, the lion-share of the strategy, and residency sites work to retain Effective and Highly Effective teachers and also new teachers—at the individual teacher level and school level—and importantly in areas of our system that need these supports the most. More broadly, this research provides a clearer trajectory toward the implementation approach that educational systems can take by directing and adapting proven resources to move the needle on teaching and learning priorities.
– Ria Mehta, New York City Department of Education
Read Improving the Teacher Pipeline in the Bronx for additional information about TSL’s three major programs and the results of our evaluation.
This study was made possible by a Teacher and School Leader Incentive Grant to the NYCDOE from the US Department of Education.