Getting rid of older teachers might be a good idea

via Freakonomics

I doubt the teacher unions will be too happy with the findings of this paper on education. They are set up to protect and reward tenure and mediocrity rather than excellence.

A new working paper (abstract;PDF) by Maria Fitzpatrick and Michael Lovenheim finds that offering early retirement to experienced schoolteachers doesn’t have a negative effect on students’ test scores, and in some cases leads to an improvement. The abstract:

Early retirement incentives (ERIs) are increasingly prevalent in education as districts seek to close budget gaps by replacing expensive experienced teachers with lower-cost newer teachers. Combined with the aging of the teacher workforce, these ERIs are likely to change the composition of teachers dramatically in the coming years.  We use exogenous variation from an ERI program in Illinois in the mid-1990s to provide the first evidence in the literature of the effects of large-scale teacher retirements on student achievement.  We find the program did not reduce test scores; likely, it increased them, with positive effects most pronounced in lower-SES schools. 

Here are some of the factors that Fitzpatrick and Lovenheim had to wrestle with:

Ex ante, it is unclear what the effects of large-scale teacher retirements, such as those resulting from an ERI, will be. On the one hand, retiring teachers are highly experienced, and they typically are replaced with much less-experienced teachers or with new teachers. The evidence of the strong relationship between experience and effectiveness in the classroom (Wiswall 2013; RivkinHanushek and Kain 2005;Rockoff 2004) suggests teacher retirements could reduce student achievement. Even among teachers who have the same amount of experience, teacher quality varies substantially (Goldhaber and Hansen 2010). If teachers with better job opportunities outside of Illinois Public Schools (IPS) are the most likely to retire, and if wages outside teaching are positively correlated with teacher quality (Chingos andWest 2012), then the offer of an ERI would negatively affect student test scores.

On the other hand, teachers who are near retirement may put forth less effort than younger teachers or may be less well-trained in modern, potentially more effective, pedagogical practices. This may be particularly true for those teachers who desire to retire early. Alternatively, if productivity is negatively correlated with disutility from teaching, the teachers who choose to take up the ERI may be those that are least productive. Family and personal circumstances also influence the labor-leisure decision in ways that lead to ambiguous predictions of the effect of ERIs on achievement. Finally, principals and administrators may respond to large losses of experienced teachers, e.g. by decreasing class sizes, changing the assignment of teachers to students or purchasing additional non-teacher resources.


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  • Techersrock

    There are a lot of maybes in that. No real evidence to support chucking older teachers on the scrap heap.

    Did a teacher hit your car or something Whale? You seem to be in teacher attack mode this afternoon.

    • thor42

      What kind of “techer” are you?

      • The RobberDog

        One that can’t spell…

      • Techersrock

        Gasp a typo, oh my the world shall now end. Oh me oh my thor is my undoing!!!

        Good grief, idiot.

        • Mr Sackunkrak

          You of all should be above reproach. Least we let you near children.

          • Teachersrock


      • Mr Sackunkrak

        A Labour voting sycophant, but that probably doesn’t narrow it down much.

  • LesleyNZ

    Why? Nothing wrong with older teachers. So long as they are teaching well. Now – on the other hand – we could get rid of a few younger teachers……………… who are not teaching well.

    • IWantToBeLikeMallardOneDay

      There are lots of Russel Norman clones coming out of TECOL these days… They all get taught treaty of waitangi revisionism and all kinds of other bollocks. There are no sound pedagogical methods No-one with a functioning brain could tolerate that kind of gibberish, it is too much like the crap I was told by leftwing loonies in the mid-90s. Good teachers now go overseas. As GBS said, he who can does, he who cannot teaches and he who can’t even do that, governs. The last part is a slight deviation from the original…

  • The RobberDog

    A lot of that makes sense if you can read it without red tinted lenses… I can only imagine that teaching must take a shit load of energy – I know there are teachers out there heading towards 60yr who are probably just as passionate and energetic as they were when they started out, but they aren’t the ones who would be interested in early retirement and they will also still be very effective, their experience will be of great value and they likely keep themselves upskilled… on the flip side however… there are teachers who are much younger, sigh a lot and really dont give the impression that they are ‘passionate’ about anything other than the little hand hitting the ‘3’. These are the ones who would gladly take up the opportunity of an ‘early retirement’ and they would also be the ones that would result in the findings in the studies. Once again effective teachers have little to do with experience or youth, it comes down to passion and energy. The biggest enemy of the passionate and energetic teacher is the Teacher Unions.

    • benniedawg

      I absolutely agree with the last sentence of this comment. I have been a teacher for many years and still have a great passion for moving young people forward, and I had a successful career before teaching. It is with some pride that I am denied membership to PPTA, guess what type of school I teach in. I manage a dedicated team of passionate young teachers who really make a difference to the students who opt for or learning area. I will keep doing what I think I do well till I get get sick of the kids, which is likely to be no time soon. Best anti PPTA out yet was being told I could not enroll in a professional development course that would have improved my salary because I was not a member of their union and was not allowed to join because of the school I taught in. BRING ON THE CHARTER SCHOOLS.

  • Bryan

    often a teacher reaches their greatest effectiveness in the latter years of their teaching career and the problem is , they appear to be laid back but they are really drawing on their years of experience they can look at a child or situation and sum it up in seconds and parents think they lost it. My wife one of those and right at 65 she is a good a reading and English teacher as she has ever been and still can take a child that other younger teachers say is okay and unearth a problem and then apply the remedy and set that child up for life all in a matter of weeks
    Many employers are finding that older workers are better workers,more reliable and add balance to a workplace and sometimes take a lot of pressure off younger Managers just by being there they stop a lot of problems rising by just their experience

    and can be a good encourager to younger staff,and an extra pair of eyes in busy times

    • Techersrock


      Older does not mean scrap heap material. And the article WO has posted does not even back up the idea.

  • Col

    Haven’t read the above, but teachers old and young need to do exams once a year to keep there jobs.

    • Teachersrock


      Exams are one of the worst ways to assess someones ability.

      • Col

        I have said that to my son, but the teachers keep giving them. But I do understand what your saying.

        • Teachersrock

          High school I am assuming?

          • Col