Chris Torres

Associate Professor, School of Education


610 E. University Ave.
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1259

Chris Torres is an Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Leadership in the University of Michigan’s School of Education. He is a qualitative researcher interested in how leadership and policy can stabilize and strengthen school improvement efforts and teaching as a profession. Prior to joining the University of Michigan Chris was a professor of Educational Leadership at Michigan State University and Montclair State University, and he worked in New York City as a K-2 teacher, grade chair, teacher mentor, mentor teacher trainer, teacher educator, school board chair, and in the central office designing teacher hiring and leadership development systems.

His scholarship focuses on teacher recruitment/retention, charter schools, leadership, and district governance, with particular attention to policies and organizations that aim or claim to close racial achievement gaps. For example, much of his published work focuses on a polarizing form of school choice: urban “no-excuses” Charter Management Organizations (CMOs). This early work critiqued the “success” narrative of charter school networks such as the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), Uncommon Schools, Noble, and Success Academies. Supporters often claimed that these organizations were closing racial achievement gaps and improving opportunities and outcomes for marginalized children of color. Torres uses qualitative and mixed method approaches to complicate this narrative and draw attention to some of the costs and consequences of these organizations’ practices, focusing on the causes and implications of high teacher turnover and harsh disciplinary methods in no-excuses charter schools, including how these issues impact teachers, communities, families, and students. His work on no-excuses schools has been mentioned or profiled in over 20 different venues, including the Washington Post, Education Week, Chalkbeat, Christian Science Monitor, and newspapers in Los Angeles, Michigan, Puerto Rico, Georgia, New Jersey, and New York.

Recent projects funded by the Spencer Foundation, Institute for Education Sciences (IES), and the Michigan Department of Education look at school choice and accountability policies such as district and school turnaround and new urban governance reforms such as Portfolio Management Models (PMMs). This work examines connections between policy, central offices, and implementation processes at the school and district level to highlight how school systems are affected by policy and how they organize for improvement in response to reforms. For example, he interviewed superintendents across Michigan for four years (2018-2022) and conducted comparative case studies of several districts to illustrate the variation, rationale, and implementation differences in how leaders and teachers responded to the demands of Michigan’s 2018 turnaround reforms. 

Through interviews with hundreds of practitioners in multiple states and cities some common themes emerge across studies: in particular, the idea that teacher recruitment and retention shape the effectiveness and sustainability of school improvement policy and practice. Torres’ current research projects aim to understand new problems and strategies to address educator workforce shortages and turnover in a variety of individual and geographic contexts. He is especially interested in studying how leadership, district governance, salaries, individual characteristics of teachers, and working conditions influence educator recruitment, retention, and organizational effectiveness.

Torres is a former Associate Director for the University Council of Educational Administration (UCEA). He also serves as an associate editor for Educational Administration Quarterly (EAQ) and sits on the editorial boards of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (EEPA), Urban Education, and Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA). He served as Program Chair for AERA Division A (Section 1) and the Charter and School Choice SIG, and was the secretary for the Politics of Education Association (PEA) SIG from 2019-2021. He received the Outstanding Reviewer Award in 2018 and 2019 from Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (EEPA) and is a recipient of AERA Division L’s Outstanding Policy Report (2021). He holds a BA in Psychology from Yale University, an MA in Early Childhood Education from Mercy College, and a PhD in Teaching and Learning from New York University (NYU). 


Award Start Date
Oct 01, 2022
Award End Date
Sep 30, 2025