Teacher Retirement & Test Scores

An article published in the Wall Street Journal appeared to offer an inverse relationship between student test scores and early retirement of veteran teachers. The article refers to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research,Cornell University. Researchers used an “early retirement incentive program implemented in Illinois during the mid-1990s to assess the impact of teacher experience on student test scores.” Over 10% of teachers in that system opted to take the early retirement option.

The researchers then examined test scores for students in grades 3, 6, and 8 from the periods both before and after the implementation of the early retirement program. The results appeared counter-intuitive. “They found that school districts with more retirees had higher test scores. The results were unexpected, as previous literature has shown that teacher experience correlates with student achievement.”

An explanation may be related to a previous discussion about teacher engagement in their jobs. Perhaps those who were least engaged in their profession accepted eagerly the early retirement plan and were replaced by young, engaged professionals. The article offers the following explanation: These older teachers “might not invest as much because they want to retire.” says Mr. Lovenheim. “So when they get closer to retirement, they check out.”

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