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Assessing the Role of Teachers’ Unions in the Adoption of Accountability Policies in Public Education

Abstract

We investigate the role of teachers’ unions in state policymaking in the context of No Child Left Behind. Our analyses of panel data show that political party control and region moderate the influence of teachers’ unions in the adoption of accountability policies by states. Our analyses of marginal effects show that teachers’ unions are not always against the adoption of stronger accountability policies and neither do they always align with the Democratic Party. Our findings suggest that the current dominant prescription in the policy debate for curtailing the collective bargaining rights of teachers’ unions is not fully substantiated.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    Per CTU website: https://www.ctulocal1.org/union/member-information/.

  2. 2.

    We chose the weighted tetrachoric factor analysis over other alternatives because each of the sanctions only partially represents the underlying strength of the state accountability system. One option is to treat each type of sanction (including rewards for high performing schools) as a different dependent variable. There are two problems with this. Apart from only partially capturing the strength of the adopted accountability system in states, the dichotomous nature of the measurement of individual sanctions also imposes restrictions on the possible types of statistical analyses. The factor scores overcome these challenges by measuring the underlying strength of adopted accountability policies objectively on the basis of how closely the various types of sanctions hang together (Moe 2009).

  3. 3.

    The policy adoption literature relies on the Event History Analysis (EHA) model (Berry and Berry 1990; Wong and Shen 2002). One of the key assumptions in the EHA model is that once a policy is adopted in any year, it remains in place in all subsequent years. In case of the adoption of accountability policies by states, this important assumption does not hold (McDermott 2003; Wong and Shen 2002). There is variation in adoption of individual policies over time within a state as per the Education Counts database. This variation renders the use of EHA models inappropriate. Additionally, the EHA permits analysis of only one of the several accountability policies at a time. This constraint rules out an analysis of the factors affecting the strength of accountability system adopted by states as a whole.

  4. 4.

    Out of the two widely used basic panel data models in applied social science research, the fixed effects model assumes the random state-specific time-invariant unobserved factors to be correlated with the included factors in the model (Cameron and Trivedi 2009). This flexibility allows accounting for a limited form of endogeneity (Cameron and Trivedi 2009). One major practical problem with using the fixed effects model in our case, however, is that it can consistently estimate only the coefficients of the time-varying regressors (Cameron and Trivedi 2009). But several components of the interaction term in our panel data model in Eq. 1 are time-invariant. These include collective bargaining index, South, and collective bargaining index*South. The estimation of the fixed effects panel data model does not provide the coefficients of these components because they are perfectly collinear with the state-specific time-invariant unobserved factors. However, it is important to include all components of the interaction term in the regression model so that marginal effects of the key variables in the interaction term can be estimated and tested for statistical significance (Brambor et al. 2006). Therefore, we employ the multi-level linear regression model, which is a sub-type of random effects model, to estimate our interactive panel data model in equation.

  5. 5.

    Also known as pick-a-point slope estimates (Dawson and Richter 2006).

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Acknowledgements

We wish to thank Prof. Henry S. Farber of Princeton University for sharing data on collective bargaining index. We also thank Prof. Barry Hirsch of Georgia State University and Prof. David Macpherson of Trinity University for sharing their data on the percentage of teachers covered under collective bargaining agreements for each state in the US.

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Correspondence to Nandan K. Jha.

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Jha, N.K., Banerjee, N. & Moller, S. Assessing the Role of Teachers’ Unions in the Adoption of Accountability Policies in Public Education. Urban Rev 52, 299–330 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-019-00529-y

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Keywords

  • Teachers’ unions
  • Collective bargaining
  • Policy adoption
  • No child left behind
  • Accountability