Teacher Assignment and Transfer

After teachers are effectively recruited and hired by a district or school, how they are deployed also plays a critical role in equitable access. For example, as shown in this infographic from the Strategic Data Project, newly hired, first-year teachers are regularly assigned to students who have a history of lower performance—both between and even within schools. Also, transfer rules in some districts allow more experienced teachers to “bump” less experienced teachers from more desired schools, also resulting in inequitable access. Examining why this inequity happens so that it can be addressed is critically important. Strategies to deliberately place effective teachers should include the following considerations:

  • Teacher assignment to courses within schools
  • New teacher placement to schools within districts
  • Reforming teacher transfer and dismissal policies


What Can I Do to Support Equitable Access to Great Teachers and Leaders?

Strategies to Consider

  • Consider New Teacher Status When Making Assignments

    Avoid assigning new teachers to low-performing students or lower tracked classrooms. 
  • Consider Student Population When Making Teacher Assignments

    Determine which students have been repeatedly assigned a new teacher; reassign those teachers or students. 
  • Deny Transfers of Ineffective Teachers

    Deny transfers of ineffective teachers to other schools or classrooms, especially lower-tracked classrooms or underperforming schools.
  • Link Teacher Dismissal Policies with Performance

    Consider teacher performance when making layoff decisions. 
  • Prepare School Leaders for Making Equitable Teacher Assignments

    Provide preparation for school leaders on equitable assignment and school scheduling practices. 
  • Provide Incentives for Teacher Transfers Into High-Need Schools

    Support innovative incentives for effective teachers to transfer to disadvantaged, low-performing schools. 
  • Provide Support to Principals on Making Teacher Assignments

    Provide principal professional development on school scheduling and teacher assignment. 
  • Review Teacher Dismissal Policies

    Examine and possibly revise local teacher dismissal policies. 
  • Review Teacher Transfer Policies

    Examine and possibly revise local teacher transfer policies. 
  • Seek Input from School Leaders on Teacher Hiring Decisions

    Consider giving principals more input into teacher hiring and placement decisions.


  • Access to Effective Teaching for Disadvantaged Students

    This report from the Institute of Education Sciences examines access that disadvantaged students have to effective teachers in Grade 4–8 classrooms in 29 school districts across the country. The researchers found that the disadvantaged students had less access than advantaged students to effective teachers. Furthermore, this ratio did not change over time, and the unequal access to effective teachers is related to school assignment of teachers and students (i.e., access depends more heavily on the school that students attend than specific classrooms within schools). For a brief discussion of the study and its findings, see this videohttp://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20144001/pdf/20144001.pdf
  • Moving High-Performing Teachers: Implementation of Transfer Incentives in Seven Districts

    This report from the Institute of Education Sciences reviews findings from research on the Talent Transfer Initiative (TTI), implemented in 10 school districts across the country. The TTI offers teachers a total of $20,000 over the course of two years if they transferred to, and stayed in, low-performing schools. The researchers found that transfer incentives may be a feasible policy to fill vacancies; however, there must be a large pool of experienced teacher candidates from which to choose. In this case, the ratio was 16 candidates per teaching position. For a brief discussion of the study and its findings, see this videohttp://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20124051/pdf/20124051.pdf
  • Recruiting and Staffing in a Rural School

    This vignette describes changes that the superintendent of the Nye County School District (Nevada) undertook to recruit a principal for an underperforming school. The school district’s strategy focused on starting early in the candidate search and also strategically searching for candidates who aligned with the vision of the district and school. http://centeronschoolturnaround.org/journeys/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Journeys_Amargosa_Episode_2B.pdf
  • Reform of Seniority-Based Layoff Rules for Teachers: A Legal Analysis

    This resource provides legal insight into seniority-based layoff reforms. The authors also provide examples of district layoff policies in California and Connecticut. http://www.lcwlegal.com/files/95049_NSBA-White-Paper-Reform-of-Seniority-Based-Layoff-Rules-for-Teachers.pdf
  • The Irreplaceables

    This report from The New Teacher Project highlights the problem of experienced and effective teachers who end up leaving the profession. The report claims that the true challenge in retention is retaining the “right teachers.” Factors contributing to losing these teachers include poorly designed evaluation systems, lockstep compensation systems, layoff rules that don’t take effectiveness into account, forced staffing policies, and difficulty dismissing poorly performing teachers. The report considers district-level policy implications for each factor. 

  • Transfer Incentives for High-Performing Teachers: Final Results from a Multisite Randomized Experiment

    This report reviews findings from research on the Talent Transfer Initiative (TTI), implemented in 10 school districts across the country. The TTI offers teachers a total of $20,000 over the course of two years if they transferred, and stayed, in low-performing schools. The researchers found that the incentive attracted teachers with high value-added scores in 88 percent of vacancies. In addition, in those classrooms, students’ test scores increased over the two years in math and reading. http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20144003/pdf/20144003.pdf