Teacher Working Conditions and Equitable Student Outcomes

Project Summary

Working conditions play an important role in teacher job satisfaction and ultimately the student experience. Because teachers’ effectiveness grows as they gain experience, facilitating supportive working conditions in a way that improves teacher retention can improve outcomes for all students. The need to better understand the link between working conditions and retention has important equity implications because teacher turnover tends to be higher in schools with more minority and economically disadvantaged students.

Using a biennial working conditions survey of all licensed personnel in Virginia public schools, as well as administrative data, and interview data with teachers and principals, this project aims to contribute to our collective understanding of the relationships between teacher working conditions, teacher retention, and equitable student outcomes. In service of this goal, we will:

  1. characterize the schools’ working conditions profiles and assess their association with teacher retention and equitable student educational outcomes;
  2. document how districts and schools are making use of data on working conditions to affect positive change;
  3. describe how working conditions support or hinder teachers’ efforts to meet the needs of English learners;
  4. assess the degree to which working conditions differentially predict teacher retention in rural schools by teachers’ prior exposure to rural communities; and,
  5. produce a series of research briefs highlighting the associations between working conditions and teacher job satisfaction.

This research project is a partnership with Old Dominion University and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). It is supported by a research grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (R305A200106). The project began in July 2020 and is scheduled to be completed in June 2024.

During the project’s first year (July 2020-June 2021), we are focused on data collection. Our team has collaborated with VDOE, the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, and Virginia Tech to administer the Virginia School Survey of Climate and Working Conditions in all regular public schools between January and March 2021. We are also piloting interviews with teachers and principals to gain an understanding of the factors that help or hinder the provision of supporting working conditions. This pilot will inform the full-scale interviews we will conduct during the 2021-22 school year.

A note about COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertain and evolving circumstances through which schools continue to provide educational services to students. We recognize that this public health crisis will impact schools and students for years to come. As teachers, staff, and students adapt to new instructional circumstances, it is critically important that we understand the impact of the pandemic on climate and working conditions, and continue to monitor our progress towards recovery. The 2021 Virginia School Survey becomes a tool for division leaders and principals to monitor and ensure all students and staff have access to a healthy and positive environment in which to learn, work, interact, and grow, whether remotely or in-person. Our study, with its analyses of the survey and other data, will also help Virginia schools recover and position them for excellence as the pandemic’s effects recede.


Principal Investigator

Luke Miller

Research Briefs


Project Team

  • Luke C. Miller, Ph.D. is the project’s Principal Investigator with overall responsibility for the project and partnership with VDOE and ODU. He will lead all the main studies of teacher retention and equitable student educational outcomes and the substudy on rural teacher retention.
  • Jennifer M. Piver-Renna, Ph.D. is a co-Principal Investigator with responsibility for VDOE’s subaward. She will lead the administration of the Virginia School Survey for VDOE, as well as the sub-study on teacher job satisfaction.
  • Rachel S. White, Ph.D. is a co-Principal Investigator with responsibility for ODU’s subaward. She will have primary responsibility for the project’s qualitative data and will lead the administration of the substudy on EL student achievement.
  • Daniel W. Player, Ph.D. is a co-Principal Investigator. He will assist Dr. Miller with coordinating all project activities and will lead the substudy of local data use.
  • Jim Soland, Ph.D. is a co-Investigator. He will serve as a methodological expert for the latent profile analysis and will lead the project’s study of factors associated with working conditions.
  • David Myers, Ph.D. is a co-Investigator. He will be responsible for ensuring that the research conducted through this project results in actionable information that informs state Board of Education policy and VDOE practice on teacher working conditions.

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