Ed Policy Grad Student Wins NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship to Study Teacher Retention


Veronica Katz, a doctoral student in the Education Policy doctoral program, has been awarded a National Academy of Education (NAEd) / Spencer 2015 Dissertation Fellowship for $27,500. These funds will support Katz during the upcoming academic year as she examines teacher retention and mobility in Washington D.C. Public Schools (DCPS).

Veronica KatzWorking with her mentor Jim Wyckoff, a professor and director of EdPolicyWorks, Katz will be examining how these trends have changed over the last six years and what these trends imply about the success of IMPACT, the high profile DCPS teacher assessment system.

“2009 marks the beginning of a period of substantial reform in DCPS,” explained Katz.

The implemented reforms aimed to attract and retain high-performing teachers though targeted financial and non-financial incentives.

“What we don’t yet know is how these incentives influence teachers’ decisions about whether and where to teach in DC,” Katz said. “Especially in public schools that are typically considered challenging-to-staff.”

This research makes use of a rich database developed in collaboration with DCPS that leverages teacher turnover rates as a signal of teachers’ preferences about the implemented reforms.

“We know teachers are the most important school factor influencing student outcomes,” said Katz. “But policy makers and researchers alike still struggle to attract and retain effective teachers in the schools that need them the most.”

As teacher evaluation and compensation reforms increase in popularity, more work needs to be done to understand teacher retention and mobility, which is the nexus of Katzs’ research.

“Veronica’s work is really important in understanding whether IMPACT and other DCPS reforms over the years have improved teacher quality and student achievement,” said Wyckoff. “Her research will have implications far beyond DCPS as it will provide important evidence on whether and how a package of reforms intended to retain and improve effective teachers is successful.”

Katz joins only thirty-one awardees from a pool of nearly 400 applicants at over 100 institutions.

“The NAE/Spencer award is very competitive, and Veronica’s receipt of an award is a strong signal about the quality and importance of her work,” Wyckoff said.

As part of the award, Katz will also receive additional mentoring and attend workshops targeting the transition from student to the job market.

“This fellowship will connect me to a network of scholars who have similar research interests and who also share a commitment to conduct policy-relevant research, and I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Katz said.

Katz is a former Teach for America Corps member and an associate teacher from a progressive private school.

Katz is also a pre-doctoral fellow in the Virginia Education Science Training (VEST) program supported by the Institute of Educational Sciences.

EdPolicyWorks is a joint collaboration between the Curry School of Education and the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. EdPolicyWorks brings together researchers from across the University of Virginia and the State to focus on important questions of educational policy and implications for the workforce.