The demographics of the teacher workforce dictate a large wave of retirements in the not too distant future. What will the loss of the most experienced teachers do to student outcomes? According to new research by Maria Fitzpatrick and Michael Lovenheim, not much.
You can’t just look at what happens when a bunch of teachers retire, because there other events which affect students are likely to have been going on at the same time. (You need to ask why a bunch of teachers decided to retire all of a sudden.) Fitzpatrick and Lovenheim looked at a very large early retirement incentive program in Illinois that began in 1993. Very experienced teachers were generally eligible for the program, while less experiencd teachers weren’t. The researchers compared what happened in schools where lots of teachers were eligible for retirement to schools where there were mostly younger teachers. In this way the researchers control for “other events.”
Here’s a picture of what happened. Think of 1993 as the zero-year of the incentive program.
The effect sizes (vertical axis) are tiny, mostly not statistically significant. And if anything, they’re positive.
The teachers who left mostly had between 25 and 34 years of experience. They were largely replaced by brand new teachers. I would have thought this would have been rough on student outcomes, at least for a few years. Apparently not.
So with the caveat that the evidence comes from an experiment 20 years ago, maybe the upcoming retirement wave is less scary than one might have thought.