Is it Better to be Good or Lucky? Decentralized Teacher Selection in 10 Elementary Schools

May 2008

This working paper presents results from a qualitative field study of school-based hiring—one of the more foundational ideas for reforming centralized and bureaucratic human resource management (HRM) systems. Prior studies suggest that giving schools more authority over hiring, despite its intuitive appeal, can be hampered by both procedural and knowledge constraints (see, for example, Liu & Johnson 2006).

Our findings echo these concerns and highlight an additional complication: a school's relative standing in the district's internal labor market and its effects on the local candidate pool. Accordingly, we argue that an integrated approach to school-based hiring—one that takes into account procedural and knowledge constraints as well as labor market incentives—holds more promise for improving the quality and distribution of the teacher workforce than a focus on school empowerment alone.

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