According to important new research, teacher pensions—both how generous they are and how they are structured—have important effects on the quality of the teaching workforce. This research provides some insight into how the looming retirement of the Baby Boom generation may affect students.
Last week the Center for Retirement Research released a research brief looking at whether teacher salaries and teacher pensions affect the quality of new teacher hires, measured by SAT scores. Even after controlling for things like the poverty level of the school, minority enrollment, gender, and location of the teacher’s preparation program, it found that teachers from more highly selective institutions sought out teaching jobs with higher compensation. Teachers preferred both higher salaries and higher retirement spending, which is somewhat surprising given that retirement costs are often assumed to be opaque to employees, especially younger ones who won’t be thinking of retirement for many years.
In the mid-1990s, Illinois offered an early retirement incentive which allowed employees to purchase extra years of creditable service for calculating their retirement benefit. Over a two-year period, Illinois lost 10 percent of its teachers, most of whom were experienced teachers, as the early retirement incentive led to a threefold increase in the retirement of experienced teachers in the 1994 and 1995 school years. Across the state, average teacher experience declined and the number of new teachers increased substantially.
In Education Week, Sarah Sparks covered a new study looking at the Illinois early retirement program. In a nutshell, even though the “5+5”program led to huge numbers of older, more experienced teachers retiring, it did no harm academically. In fact, student achievement may have gone up.
All else equal, and since we know that teacher effectiveness rises with experience, we would have expected student achievement to go down. Yet, despite the influx of novice teachers, student math and English test scores either stayed the same or went up. Importantly, those results held true for low-income, minority, and low-achieving students as well.
Photo Credit: Naked Capitalism