Susan Moore Johnson studies and teaches about teacher policy, organizational change, and administrative practice. A former high-school teacher and administrator, she has a continuing research interest in the work of teachers and the reform of schools. She has studied the leadership of superintendents, the effects of collective bargaining on schools, the use of incentive pay plans for teachers, and the school as a context for adult work. Currently, Johnson and a group of advanced doctoral students are engaged in a multiyear research study, The Project on the Next Generation of Teachers, that examines how best to recruit, support, and retain a strong teaching force in the next decade. The project, which is funded by several foundations, includes studies of hiring practices, alternative certification programs, new teachers' attitudes toward careers, and new teachers' experiences with colleagues. Johnson served as academic dean of the Ed School from 1993 to 1999. She has taught in the School's summer institute programs for administrators and teachers since 1989. For more information, please read the article on her research, the article on the research of the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers in HGSE News, an interview with Dr. Johnson on the needs of educators in the current climate of high-stakes testing, or visit the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers web site.
Retention and Support of Teachers in High-Poverty Schools, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, (2011-2012) Low-income schools often have great difficulty retaining effective teachers, who tend to transfer to whiter, wealthier schools when positions become available. This steady exodus means that low-income students are routinely taught by inexperienced teachers, that students experience the disruption and loss caused by teacher turnover, and that schools do not increase their instructional capacity over time. In this project, which we began in 2010 with funding from the Ford Foundation, we seek to understand and explain how high-poverty schools can support and retain good teachers.
Between fall and winter of 2010 and 2011, we identified and gained approval to study six high-poverty schools in Boston. These schools are located in different parts of the city and, as a group, include elementary, middle, K-8, and high schools. Each school is demographically diverse and serves large proportions of low-income students. We have interviewed 90 teachers and administrators in these schools and gathered documents and data about them. All interviews have been transcribed and we are just beginning to analyze the interviews.
We plan a set of at least three papers based on these data as well as a comprehensive literature review on the topic of staffing high-poverty schools. To complete this work, we are requesting $40,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Teacher Retention, Student Performance, and School Context Project on the Next Generation of Teachers, Ford Foundation, (2010-2011) Research about teacher transfers has relied largely on large data sets and focused on individual teachers qualifications and career decisions. In this study, we expand that focus to include the school organization and its role in teachers employment patterns. We seek to understand the choices of individuals within the context of the schools where they work. What conditions and practices either serve to attract teachers, retain them, or cause them to leave? How do low-income schools that effectively retain teachers and succeed academically differ from those that experience repeated turnover and low academic performance?