Do D.C. teachers value IMPACT? An analysis of teacher retention and mobility in Washington D.C. Public Schools
Veronica Katz

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Virginia

Primary Discipline

Policymakers have increasingly championed teacher evaluation and compensation reforms as a means of improving teacher quality and teacher retention, but little is known regarding the value teachers ascribe to these reforms. To this end, my dissertation leverages changes in teacher retention and mobility in D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) as a signal of teachers’ preferences for teacher evaluation and compensation reforms. Since 2009, DCPS has introduced several landmark reforms intended to improve teacher quality through strategic teacher hiring and retention. First and foremost, in 2009 DCPS introduced IMPACT and IMPACTplus, a comprehensive teacher evaluation and compensation system that garnered national attention for its sizeable financial incentives and high-stakes design. Building upon IMPACT and IMPACTplus, DCPS introduced the Leadership Initiative for Teachers (LIFT) in 2012, a career ladder that recognizes and rewards effective teachers with leadership opportunities and reduced oversight. Also in 2012, DCPS identified its 40 lowest-performing schools as Targeted 40 schools, a designation that is accompanied by an infusion of resources and programmatic supports. Finally, along with the identification of Targeted 40 schools, eligibility requirements for IMPACTplus financial incentives were modified to reserve the largest financial incentives for teachers in Targeted 40 schools while reducing or eliminating the financial incentives offered to teachers in low-poverty schools. In combination, these policy reforms seek to increase teacher retention in DCPS and also aim to attract and retain effective teachers in DCPS’ most challenging schools. If teachers value these reforms, we might expect teacher retention rates to increase over time. Moreover, if teachers value the additional incentives and supports available in Targeted 40 schools, we might observe teachers moving to, and remaining in, DCPS’ most challenging schools. My analysis examines for whom and where DCPS’ policy reforms have been most influential as a tool for improving teacher retention. I also evaluate whether the contrast in incentives and supports available in low-poverty, high-poverty, and Targeted 40 schools is associated with increased teacher mobility to schools typically considered hard-to-staff. Ultimately, my analysis contributes to our understanding of policies and programs that might improve teacher retention, teacher quality, and student outcomes in hard-to-staff urban schools.
About Veronica Katz
Veronica’s interest in examining teacher retention and mobility in urban schools stems from her experience as a classroom teacher. Veronica began her teaching career as a Teach for America Corps Member, teaching in a challenging environment characteristic of Teach for America placement schools. At the end of her two-year commitment to Teach for America, Veronica accepted a position as an associate teacher at a progressive private school. A distance of only ten miles separated the two schools, but they were worlds apart in practice. This stark contrast prompted Veronica to ask, “What does it take to keep the best teachers in the schools that need them the most?” Ultimately, Veronica was compelled to pursue a PhD in Education Policy in an effort to understand and examine the contextual factors that influence teacher retention and mobility in urban schools. In her time as a graduate student, Veronica partnered with D.C. Public Schools, an urban school district engaged in innovative teacher evaluation and retention reforms. In keeping with Veronica’s research interest, this partnership enabled Veronica to analyze the relationship between increasingly popular teacher evaluation and compensation reforms and teacher retention and mobility in an urban district. Veronica has contributed to quasi-experimental studies examining the causal effect of teacher evaluation on teacher performance and retention as well as the relationship between teacher turnover and student achievement, among other analyses. Upon completing her doctoral studies, Veronica remains committed to pursuing a career in policy-relevant research that will provide opportunities to influence students’ lives by improving the quality of their teachers.

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