Worth the Partisan Political Battle? Teachers' Collective Bargaining Agreements and Student Achievement
Adam Edgerton

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Pennsylvania

Primary Discipline

Popular rhetoric pits teachers' unions vested interests against those of students and families. This presumption, however, has not been empirically tested in the state of Pennsylvania. By constructing a unique database of contractual items for the 2015-2016 school year across all Pennsylvania school districts, my dissertation examines a) variation in these items, b) partisan political predictors for these items, and c) relationships to student achievement and graduation rates. My preliminary analysis, using geospatial techniques, finds a negative relationship between the percentage of registered Republicans in a district and the strength of the contract. I also find that there is a significant and positive relationship between Republican school boards and math achievement in grades 3-8, grade 10, and in high school biology. This relationship is much smaller in English language arts (ELA), and this pattern mirrors national rhetoric about the greater importance of STEM education compared to the liberal arts. Using quasi-experimental methods, I find significant positive estimates of certain contract items on students' math achievement in grades 3-8, and a significant negative estimate of these same items on graduation rates. These results suggest that subject-area and grade-level differentiation in contracts might help recruit teachers for hard-to-staff positions, particularly in math and science. It also suggests that Republican school board members may emphasize STEM in line with concerns about future earnings and job opportunities.
About Adam Edgerton
Adam Kirk Edgerton is a Ph.D. candidate in Education Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. He spent seven years working as a public high school English teacher in Lawrence, Massachusetts, as a TRIO Upward Bound director for low-income, first-generation students, and as a consultant for private high schools in mainland China. These diverse work experiences lead him to research the major controversies that he directly experienced: standards-based reform, accountability policies, and collective bargaining rights. As a researcher at the IES-funded national Center on Standards, Alignment, Instruction and Learning (c-sail.org), Adam has lead-authored papers in AERA Open, Teachers College Record, and the American Journal of Education and co-authored a feature article in Educational Researcher. Adam has also published essays in national media outlets such as The Chronicle for Higher Education, Education Week, and The Huffington Post, including ``Why I Quit Teaching.`` This op-ed started a sub-genre of public teacher resignation letters. Adam's dissertation research constructs a unique database of teacher contracts across Pennsylvania. Using quasi-experimental methods, he examines the relationships among key contract parameters and student achievement and graduation rates. He employs both quantitative and qualitative methods and aims to bridge disciplinary divides across his work. Adam earned his B.A. in English and Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his Ed.M. in Teaching and Curriculum from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Pin It on Pinterest