Skip Navigation
archived information

Employment Disruptions
July 2020


What does the research say about the impact of employment disruptions such as temporary school closures on staff turnover once schools reopen?

Ask A REL Response

Thank you for your request to our Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Reference Desk. Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 RELs that, by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. Ask A REL provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations in response to questions about available education research.

Following an established REL Northwest research protocol, we conducted a search for evidence- based research. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, Google Scholar, and general Internet search engines. For more details, please see the methods section at the end of this document.

The research team has not evaluated the quality of the references and resources provided in this response; we offer them only for your reference. The search included the most commonly used research databases and search engines to produce the references presented here. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The research references are not necessarily comprehensive and other relevant research references may exist. In addition to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research references, we have also included other resources that you may find useful. We provide only publicly available resources, unless there is a lack of such resources or an article is considered seminal in the topic area.


Goldhaber, D., Strunk, K. O., Brown, N., & Knight, D. S. (2015). Lessons learned from the Great Recession: Layoffs and the RIF-induced teacher shuffle. [CALDER Working Paper 129]. Washington DC: National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) at American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"One consequence of the Great Recession is that teacher layoffs occurred at a scale previously unseen. In this article, we assess the effects of receiving a layoff notice on teacher mobility using data from Los Angeles and Washington State. Our analyses are based on 6-year panels of data in each site, including 4 years of layoffs. We find that the layoff process leads far more teachers to leave their schools for other district schools than is necessary to reach budget savings targets. In other words, the layoff process induces teacher churn, impacting even teachers who are not actually laid off. Placebo tests confirm that this "structural churn" results from the layoff process rather than from differential mobility of targeted teachers."

Hill, A. J., Jones, D. B. (2018). The effect of school closings on teacher labor market outcomes and teacher effectiveness. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"School closings displace thousands of teachers in the US every year. This paper explores how 3rd to 5th grade teachers in North Carolina respond to this labor market shock. After documenting that declining enrollment is a key driver of school closings in our study, we find that while most displaced teachers move to new schools in the same district, a considerable share leave education altogether or take breaks from teaching. We find that the increase in the propensity to leave teaching is largest for the highest value-added and most experienced teachers. It is also twice as large for black teachers than white teachers. Although the primary goal of school closings is typically to move students out of declining or failing schools, an issue which generates considerable debate on its own, the potential impact on the overall distributions of teacher value-added, experience and race may have second-order effects on educational outcomes."

Lee, H., & Sartain, L. (2020). School closures in Chicago: What happened to the teachers? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Request full-text at

From the Abstract:
"In 2013, the Chicago Board of Education closed 47 elementary schools, directly affecting 13,000 students and 900 teachers. The closures created employment uncertainty for closed-school teachers, and this article investigates the labor market consequences for teachers. We employ a difference-in-differences approach that compares the exit rates of closed-school teachers with teachers in schools that only experienced threat of closure. We estimate that the closures resulted in a near doubling of teacher exit among teachers in closed schools, particularly among low-performing teachers. We also find that, among closed-school teachers, Black teachers were more likely to return than White teachers. Given the nationwide trend of school closures for budgetary or performance reasons, this article has implications for strategic retention of effective teachers."

Lincove, J. A., Barrett, N., Strunk, K. O. (2017). Lessons from Hurricane Katrina: The employment effects of the mass dismissal of New Orleans teachers. New Orleans: Education Research Alliance For New Orleans. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Orleans Parish school district fired over 4,000 public school teachers as the city underwent a transition to a market-based system of charter schools. Using administrative data, we examine whether and how these teachers returned to public school employment and teaching. We estimate that school reform and dismissal substantially increased teacher exit from the district and the state relative to similar teachers in other parishes that suffered hurricane damage. Dismissed teachers who returned were more likely to be Black and locally trained, but new hiring through alternative certification programs led to a substantial demographic shift. A teacher population that had been highly experienced and more than 70% Black shifted through new hiring at charter schools. Implications for other districts considering teacher employment reforms are discussed."

Plecki, M., Elfers, A., & Finster, M. (2011, March). Understanding the impact and equity of teacher layoff notices: Examining two years of evidence in Washington state. In Annual Meeting of the Association for Education Finance and Policy, Seattle, WA. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"In times of shrinking state and local education budgets, districts face considerable uncertainty when attempting to determine staffing levels for the upcoming school year. One common consequence of tough financial circumstances is the decision by a district to formally notify employees of possible layoffs, typically using a process called Reduction in Force (RIF). RIF notifications generally occur during the spring prior to the upcoming school year. While a number of individuals receiving RIF notices are often rehired in the subsequent year, the layoff process can prompt shifts in teacher distribution and assignment, particularly with respect to teachers with the fewest years of experience. In addition, the re-assignment of staff due to RIF procedures may also result in positions being filled by individuals who have several years of experience working as an educator, but are now assigned to a school, subject area, grade level, and/or type of position which is new to them. While RIF notifications in K-12 education have occurred multiple times over the past three decades, there is little empirical evidence that examines the characteristics of districts that engage in a layoff process, the individuals who receive RIF notifications, and the impact the RIF process has on teacher distribution, retention or mobility."


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: Employment disruptions, (School closures OR school closings)

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.