Three Essays on the Role of Teacher Working Conditions in Shaping Human Capital

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In recent years, education policy has increasingly focused on improving human capital as a strategy for school improvement. Many recent efforts to enhance the stock of human capital in schools have focused on holding individual teachers accountable for student outcomes, with little regard to the role of teachers' working conditions in shaping human capital. Yet prior research by labor economists, organizational sociologists, and educational researchers indicates that working conditions can influence teachers' choices about where to work, and some evidence suggests that aspects of the school environment may foster or inhibit effective teaching. In this dissertation I report the results of three studies that explore the relationship between working conditions in schools and three different expressions of human capital. I explore similar notions of working conditions across these studies to peruse how these working conditions relate to both educational opportunities, such as student access to quality high school mathematics teachers, and educational outcomes, including elementary school teachers' effectiveness and novice teachers' gains in effectiveness.

In the first study, I use multilevel logistic regression to explore students' access to quality teachers based on a nationally representative sample of ninth grade mathematics students. I find that ninth graders in schools with greater collegial support are more likely to have quality mathematics teachers. In the second study, I explore data on teachers of fourth and fifth grade students nested in schools in a large urban district and employ a two-level hierarchical model to examine the relationship between working conditions and teacher effectiveness. Average teacher effectiveness is higher, on average, in schools with strong data use and strategic decision-making and in which teachers perceive high level of collegial support. In the final study, I use the same data but limit the sample to early career teachers to examine how working conditions facilitate or impede gains in early career teachers' effectiveness. I find that novice teachers have greater gains in effectiveness in English language arts in schools that are perceived by teachers as having strong learning communities. Novice teachers' gains in effectiveness in mathematics are greater in schools with greater collegial support and data use.