Will the coming wave of retirements among Baby Boomer teachers hurt K-12 education? A new paper suggests it will not — and even raises the option that low-performing schools may be able to lower costs without damaging student outcomes through early retirement programs. (In the US, the mean salary of a teacher with less than 5 years of experience is $32,000, while the mean salary for one with more than 30 years of experience is $49,000). Early Retirement Incentives and Student Achievement by Cornell’s Maria Fitzpatrick and Michael Lovenheim:
This paper presents the first evidence in the literature on the effects of teacher retirement in response to early retirement incentives on student achievement. We use an exogenous increase in the incentive to retire among Illinois public school teachers in 1994 and 1995 that induced large numbers of teachers to retire. Using the fact that schools that had more experienced teachers prior to the implementation of the program were more affected by it, we use a difference-difference framework to determine the effects of the ERI on student achievement.
Although we show that the ERI program led to a large amount of retirement by experienced teachers, which consequently lowered teacher experience levels, we find the program did not reduce test scores and instead led to increased student achievement in most cases. Our estimates are sufficiently precise to rule out even small negative effects of the program on math and English scores. We also show suggestive evidence that the ERI program had larger positive effects in more disadvantaged schools. …
To the extent that the Illinois experience is generalizable to the rest of the United States, our results thus point to the potential to reduce district costs without harming student achievement by offering teachers incentives to retire early. This type of policy may be particularly effective in the lowest-performing and lowest-SES schools.
Now pair these results along with the success of the Teach for America program. Together, they would seem an indictment of how we train teachers across the career spectrum, from teaching colleges to professional development.