Matthew Shirrell

Matthew Shirrell
Assistant Professor, Education Administration
(202) 994-4515

Dr. Shirrell’s research and teaching examine the social and organizational characteristics of the school workplace and their impacts on the retention of teachers and school leaders. His current work uses social network analysis to understand teachers’ and school leaders’ advice and information seeking about instruction, including the factors that predict both seeking and being sought out for advice; how advice seeking and giving change throughout teachers’ and school leaders’ careers; and the impacts of policy changes on who teachers and school leaders talk to about their work.

Dr. Shirrell’s work also seeks to understand the impacts of federal, state, and local policies on school working conditions and the retention of teachers and school leaders. This work has explored a variety of areas, including the effects of No Child Left Behind’s subgroup-specific accountability on teachers’ turnover, attrition, and class assignments; the role of school working conditions in shaping student teachers’ career plans; and new principals’ efforts to build their teachers’ trust and commitment when they take over highly pressured, low-performing schools.

Dr. Shirrell has been awarded an Albert Shanker Institute Research Grant, a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, and an Institute for Education Sciences Predoctoral Fellowship. Prior to joining the faculty of George Washington University, Dr. Shirrell was a post-doctoral fellow with the Distributed Leadership Study at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University.


Spillane, J. P., Shirrell, M., & Sweet, T. M. (2017). The elephant in the schoolhouse: The role of propinquity in school staff interactions about teaching. Sociology of Education, 90 (2), 149-171.

Spillane, J. P., & Shirrell, M. (2017). Breaking up isn’t hard to do: Exploring the dissolution of teachers’ and school leaders’ work-related ties. Educational Administration Quarterly, 53 (4), 616-648.

Shirrell, M., & Reininger, M. (2017). School working conditions and changes in student teachers’ planned persistence in teaching. Teacher Education Quarterly, 44(2),49-78.

Shirrell, M. (2016). The effects of subgroup-specific accountability on teacher turnover and attrition. Education Finance and Policy. Advance online publication. doi:10.1162/EDFP_a_00227

Shirrell, M. (2016). New principals, accountability, and commitment in low-performing schools.Journal of Educational Administration, 54(5), 558-574.

In the News

Dr. Matthew Shirrell's work was highlighted in the Fordham Institute's Flypaper blog post: "How accountability metrics related to student subgroups affect teacher turnover and attrition." The post discussed Dr. Shirrell's study in the article from the summer issue of Education Finance and Policy entitled, "The Effects of Subgroup-Specific Accountability on Teacher Turnover and Attrition."

Dr. Matthew Shirrell co-authored a paper with Travis Bristol, entitled “Who Is Here to Help Me? The Work-Related Social Networks of Staff of Color in Two Mid-Sized Districts,” which was published in American Educational Research Journal.

Dr. Matthew Shirrell published, with colleagues Dr. James Spillane (Northwestern University) and Dr. Samrachana Adhikari (Harvard University), an article in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis entitled "Constructing ‘Experts’ Among Peers: Test Data, Educational Infrastructure, and Teachers’ Interactions About Teaching.” In addition, Dr. Shirrell's article "The Effects of Subgroup-Specific Accountability on Teacher Turnover and Attrition" appeared in the summer issue of Education Finance and Policy.

Dr. Matthew Shirrell presented a paper at the Spring 2018 Conference of the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE) entitled "Understanding the Building Blocks of On-the-Job Teacher Education: The Role of Physical Proximity in Work-Related Social Ties Among School Staff.”