Teacher Payroll Database

A database of public payroll records

“There has long been a feeling in educational circles that the number of public school teachers leaving their positions each year is inordinately high…” (Elsbree 1928)

Researchers have been discussing the long history of research into teacher retention for at least 90 years. An important facet of this research is the enormouse variability in retention rates across districts. Elsbree found an inter-quartile range of 12 percentage points (8% to 20%) in the teacher turnover rate in New Yorks cities and village, and that sort of cross-district variability persists today.

My contribution to this longstanding area of research is to create a public database of teachers, allowing researchers to collaborate openly, and build directly on each others work. My quixotic mission was to build a database with every teacher in America. That ambitious dream is far from realized, but the database now has tens of millions of records from over 14 states. With this data, I am exploring teacher retention and mobility. Data intergration and quality checking is ongoing, but I hope to release a preliminary version of the database by the summer of 2020.

The chart below shows the distribution of teacher retention rates across districts, by state and year, and is just an example to hint at the type of cross state and district analysis that this database will make possible, and more importantly, replicable.

distribution of teacher evaluations in Ohio by school district

I also want to say that there are some interesting privacy questions around making public - but previously hard to access - data easily accesible. This work is not intended to be used to fuel listicles of the ‘most overpaid teachers and administrators in America.’ At this point I do not intend to publicly share the compiled teacher level data, though I welcome academic collaborators.

This work will be presented at the conference for American Education Research Association in 2020.

See the project code on GitHub.

Lief Esbenshade
Doctoral Candidate

My research interests include teacher evaluation, teacher mobility, and measurement theory.