Do teachers who return to the district they graduated from have a competitive edge over other beginning teachers? In a study recently published in the American Educational Research Journal, University of Florida researcher Christopher Redding sought to find out.
Using ten years of teacher and student data from a large (unnamed) southeastern school district, Redding found that when compared to other beginning teachers in their cohort, 'homegrown' teachers (his term for district graduates who returned to their home district to teach) were more effective at raising English language arts (ELA) achievement, more likely to stay than other early-career teachers, and were more likely to identify as Black.
Homegrown teachers didn't show any significant differences in their effectiveness when compared to other beginning teachers in math. But in elementary ELA, homegrown teachers achieved greater outcomes with their students, a small but statistically significant difference, equivalent to moving a student from the 48th to the 49th achievement percentile. While this difference does sound small, it is actually equivalent to the difference between a student having a first or a second-year teacher.
Homegrown teachers were also less likely to leave their district early in their careers, particularly within the first year. Homegrown teachers had a 16% attrition rate in their first year, compared to 20% of non-homegrown beginning teachers. The author estimates that the overall odds of a homegrown beginning teacher leaving are 20% lower than other beginning teachers.
Redding also found some significant differences in other characteristics of homegrown teachers.
These teachers were significantly more likely to identify as Black and were more likely to teach low-income students and students of color within the district. Compared to their beginning teacher peers, these homegrown early career teachers were also less likely to leave schools serving high proportions of low-income students and students of color, respectively. Homegrown teachers were also significantly more likely to be teaching on a temporary license.
Importantly, the teachers in this study were not selected as part of any kind of recruitment initiative for homegrown teachers. Given this, we can assume that this research represents the impact of a homegrown teacher who returns to teach voluntarily, and could conceivably represent a different sample of teachers than those teachers intentionally recruited as part of "Grow Your Own" programs and "Teach Back Home" recruitment initiatives. It remains to be seen whether these teachers would have a similar impact, but as Grow Your Own programs proliferate, there are ample opportunities for program evaluations to answer that question.