VOSD education reporter Emily Alpert completed this seven-month reporting project through a Joyce Fellowship with the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at Columbia University.

Hechinger provided a $3,500 stipend and travel expenses for a trip to New York City to help report the story, as well as advice on sources and research. The institute did not have control over the final editorial product. Alpert was one of six fellows selected this year, joining journalists from the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other publications who proposed major reporting projects on issues critical to K-12 teaching.

The project included interviews with more than 120 teachers, parents, principals, school district officials and outside experts. We sent a two-page survey to San Diego Unified principals about the hiring process to understand how frequently they are forced to hire teachers they haven’t chosen.

We enlisted the help of the National Institute of Computer-Assisted Reporting to analyze data on teacher transfers within San Diego Unified schools from 2003 to 2008 that we obtained through a public records request. We added data on poverty levels and test scores to get a picture of teacher turnover at individual schools across the district and understand how often teachers transferred when they weren’t forced to do so.

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