Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education Policy (PhD)

Degree Level



Education Reform


Gema Zamarro Rodriguez

Committee Member

Robert M. Costrell

Second Committee Member

Joshua B. McGee


retirement benefits, teacher pensions, teacher retirment, teacher turnover, job satisfaction, job amenities, principal leadership, retention


Teachers have an important impact on students in the short- and long-term, but only teachers’ experience consistently predicts high teacher quality. This dissertation, divided into three chapters, investigates two topics that are related to teachers’ experience levels: turnover and retirement.

The first chapter studies the relationship between voluntary beginning teacher turnover and teachers’ levels of conscientiousness. It uses the data from the Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study and the effort that teachers put on a survey taken during their first year in the profession as a proxy for teachers’ levels of conscientiousness. The results of this chapter indicate that teachers putting less effort on their surveys (i.e. the less conscientious teachers) are more likely to be retained. While higher quality principals can reduce the likelihood of teacher turnover, these principals more effective at retaining less conscientious teachers.

The second chapter conceptually evaluates policies that try to induce teacher turnover in an attempt to reduce mounting pension costs. Using data from Massachusetts, this chapter calculates the required deviations from actuarially assumed teacher exit rates that would hold the uniform normal cost rate (the average cost of prefunding all currently accruing benefits for teachers as a percent of salary) constant when the lowering the discount rate from the expected investment return rate to a less risky rate. It finds that the probability that each teacher exits would have to increase substantially. This chapter also evaluates two targeted policies that would only increase teacher exit rates among the teachers that earn individual normal cost rates above the uniform normal cost rate and among the teachers that are eligible to retire. Even when all teachers in the targeted populations exit the Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System, savings to the fund are not enough to prevent a rise in the uniform normal cost rate.

The final chapter of this dissertation calculates teachers’ willingness-to-pay for several job conditions using a nationally representative sample of teachers from RAND’s American Teacher Panel. Results indicate that respondents value their final average salary defined benefit plans at under 3 percent of salary relative to switching to an alternative retirement plan, but experience and cognitive ability, used to proxy for teacher quality, mediate this preference. Early-career and lower quality teachers, measuring through lower levels of cognitive ability, are indifferent to the type of retirement plan they are enrolled in. Respondents also valued their retirement plans less than they valued their replacement rates, retirement ages, salary growth, health insurance, and whether they are enrolled in Social Security.