An Examination of Teacher Tenure Reform in Tennessee: Performance, Retention, and Policy Framing
Luis Rodriguez

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Vanderbilt University

Primary Discipline

The prevailing public discourse surrounding the effects of teacher tenure in public education is starkly divided. In recent years, a number of states have enacted tenure reforms, thereby potentially transforming the landscape and traditionally protected structure of the teacher labor market. Little empirical research to date has directly informed whether, in the wake of reform, tenure policies make a difference within the K-12 teaching profession. The state of Tennessee provides a prime setting to further explore the impact of tenure reform. In July 2011, the state legislature passed a series of reforms that made tenure status non-permanent and tied tenure eligibility to teacher performance within the newly restructured educator evaluation process. By exploiting the sharp performance cutoffs that determine tenure status as well as the longitudinal nature of available data before and after the legislated changes in tenure policy, this dissertation seeks to quantify the effects of tenure reforms on performance and retention outcomes for teachers in Tennessee. In addition, this project qualitatively analyzes how school administrators and teachers communicate and understand tenure reform. This multi-method approach aims to contextualize the quantitative analysis by offering insight into how school administrators frame legislated changes to the tenure eligibility process and thus mediate teacher perception and behavior in reaction to the law change. These analyses are intended to provide policymakers with an evidence base on tenure policy effects as well as potential areas for improved communication and support for school-based staff in the event of large-scale policy change.
About Luis Rodriguez
Luis A. Rodriguez is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development. Luis has a sustained interest in education policy issues and program evaluation, and his research primarily utilizes quasi-experimental methods to investigate the impact of various personnel policies – such as compensation and performance evaluation – on the K-12 teacher workforce. Luis’ current work focuses on studying the extent to which tenure policy reforms affect teacher mobility patterns and effectiveness.Prior to starting his doctoral studies, Luis received a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Swarthmore College and subsequently worked as Senior Programmer Analyst at Mathematica Policy Research. While at Mathematica, he was primarily responsible for data management and analytic tasks for education evaluations for the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education, which covered areas such as teacher collaboration, the effectiveness of K-3 mathematics curricula, and the implementation and effects of Race to the Top and School Improvement Grants. Luis currently works with the Tennessee Education Research Alliance (TERA), a partnership between Vanderbilt University and the Tennessee Department of Education that is tasked with advancing education research. His work has appeared in Education Researcher, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and The Elementary School Journal.

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