The American public continues to rely on classroom teachers to perform the work of educating youth. Indeed, the function and success of American schools hinge on the effectiveness of the teachers in its classrooms. But what precisely is the work of teachers supposed to accomplish? Debates about the goals of public schooling have raged since the advent of compulsory education, and embedded in those conflicts are a series of unresolved assumptions about how to effectively prepare teachers to do their jobs. At a high level, there is agreement that teachers ought to help students in knowledge acquisition, and most would likely agree they should also help with broader civic and social goals, such as preparing students for empathic and engaged civic participation in a diverse democracy. But how, precisely, these types of outcomes should be measured is a topic that often gives rise to disagreement. Further, given the realities that the population of public school students continues to become increasingly diverse, and given that expectations surrounding what those students should be able to do upon leaving school have changed, another set of fundamental questions remain: Has the teaching workforce kept up with these changes? What do these changing student demographics and expectations mean for the substance of teachers’ work?
Concurrently, the policy context in which teachers do their work has shifted dramatically in the past several decades. Teachers are increasingly thrust into a complicated policy matrix that includes new curricular standards, protocols for instructional materials selection, and increased accountability for student performance. Teachers are expected to demonstrate
student achievement at the levels mandated by standards regardless of the level of funding and resources at their disposal.
Given this increasingly complicated policy and practice landscape, what can be done to support and prepare teachers in their complex and critical work? What are the best ways to grow and retain a dynamic and responsive teacher workforce that is capable of meeting society’s demands for the future? Sponsored by the Hewlett Foundation, this report directly addresses these questions in order to shine a light on a pathway toward developing a teacher workforce that meets the needs of American public schools. This report investigates the tensions inherent in contemporary expectations for teachers and highlights promising practices and pedagogies for supporting teachers across their professional lifespan.
The Board on Higher Education and Workforce of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, in collaboration with the Board on Science Education, convened an expert committee to examine the K–12 teacher workforce over the past 10 to 20 years and to identify emerging trends that will continue to shift the preservice and inservice needs and experiences of the teacher workforce in the next 10 to 20 years (see Box 1-1). The committee members represented a diverse range of expertise and practice including a principal, state policy leaders, and researchers across academic disciplines (science, mathematics, and history) who explore issues related to preservice teacher preparation, inservice professional development, and teacher labor markets.
The committee met five times over an 8-month period in 2018 and 2019 to gather information about a number of issues that have affected and defined the landscape of the teacher workforce over the past 20 years, including changing expectations for teaching and learning. The committee also considered the implications of such changes for teacher education including preservice experiences, induction, and inservice professional learning opportunities. In doing its work, the committee reviewed the published literature pertaining to its charge and engaged with many experts.
The committee spent a great deal of time discussing the charge and the best ways to respond to it. Evidence was gathered from presentations
and a review of the existing literature (including peer-reviewed materials, book chapters, reports, working papers, government documents, white papers and evaluations, and editorials) over the past 20 years. This material also included previous reports by the National Academies (see Box 1-2). The committee was charged with considering the past 20 years. In some instances, however, it was necessary to consider a longer time period in order to understand a particular workforce trend. In such cases, the committee then specified a modified period of interest and a rationale for the decision.
The committee searched for information on the teacher workforce as related to shifts (changes, innovations, or trends) in teacher performance outcomes (expectations, skills, or knowledge) that occur during preservice teacher education or inservice professional development. As part of the search, the committee examined interventions related to a number of
different labor market factors including requirements, credentials, incentives, salaries, mobility, recruitment, retention, or standards. In reviewing the evidence, many different types of studies were included: meta-analyses and reviews, qualitative case studies, ethnographic and field studies, interview studies, and a few large-scale studies.
Throughout the study, members of the committee benefited from discussion and presentations by a number of individuals who participated in the fact-finding meetings. At the first meeting, the committee had an opportunity to speak with the sponsors to ask questions and get clarity on the statement of task. In particular, the committee wanted to better understand the sponsor’s stance on deeper learning and changes in the expectations of
teachers (see Chapter 3). It was through this dialogue that the committee was able to begin to develop a common language for what was meant by deeper learning (see Chapter 3 for a discussion of the term). The committee also had the opportunity to hear more about different perspectives on the K–12 teacher workforce from various experts in the field.
During the second meeting, the presentations addressed the first question in the statement of task by providing an overview of the national landscape. In particular, speakers focused on the variability of state-level issues including licensure, mobility, and reciprocity; the preparation of teachers for the changing expectations in K–12 education; and issues surrounding workforce trends in the professionalization of teaching.
During the third meeting, the committee focused on innovations in teacher education and new models and evaluation in teacher education. At the fourth meeting, the committee heard about new graduate schools of education and the historical context that in part led to shortages in teachers of color within the teacher workforce. In between meetings, the committee also had in-depth conversations with leading experts in the field to ensure that as much available evidence as possible was considered as it relates to the statement of work.
At the fifth meeting, the committee reviewed the current draft of the report to ensure that there was sufficient evidence for the claims being made. As appropriate, throughout the report, the type of research reviewed and the strength of that evidence is clearly articulated. The majority of this meeting was devoted to discussing the conclusions, recommendations, and research agenda to reach consensus. During these discussions, the committee was careful to qualify and temper the conclusions and subsequent recommendations (or lack thereof), given the type and strength of the evidence presented.
The committee faced a number of challenges throughout the study. They grappled particularly with a number of terms and assumptions they viewed as implicit in the statement of task. For example, the third question begins with the phrase, “in light of the current and anticipated changes in the teacher workforce . . . .” The committee interpreted this as an implicit assumption that there have been changes to the teacher workforce, and that these changes necessitate a corresponding shift in what preservice teacher preparation programs should provide. Over the course of the study, it became clear that there have been changes in the demographics of students in the demands placed upon teachers. However, at a national level, the makeup of the teacher workforce has remained relatively stable. This is in contrast to the underlying assumption within
the charge and has consequences for the conclusions the committee was able to reach.
The committee also grappled with some key terms and ways in which to conceptualize teacher education. For example, the degree to which teacher education can be described in stages (i.e., preservice, early careers, and experienced) is complicated by the reality that there is no clear demarcation. And unpacking what happens at each of these different stages adds to the complexity. That is, there is a large and varied array of programs and pathways into teaching as well as variability in the inservice education that teachers receive.
The committee also considered the definition of deeper learning and its emerging role in K–12 education. As discussed in Chapter 3, greater attention has been placed on deeper learning. That is, over the past decade much attention has been paid to “21st century skills”—those skills that have been identified to contribute to success—and to “deeper learning” as a mechanism by which these skills and deep conceptual understanding are achieved. The ways deeper learning has been conceptualized and framed in new content standards is articulated in that chapter.
The committee noted that while it is commonplace to distinguish between “traditional” and “alternative” programs and pathways it is a distinction that defies precise definition. The 2010 National Research Council (NRC) report Preparing Teachers concluded that the variations within and across the two categories rendered the labels too complex to be useful (see p. 13). For the purposes of the present report, what constitutes as “alternative route” is defined by each state (U.S. Department of Education, 2019), which includes college- and university-based teacher education programs (see Chapter 4 for more discussion).
The committee recognized the importance of the teacher educator workforce and looked for evidence related to the makeup of this workforce. That is, the committee looked for what pipelines exist for teacher educators, how they are prepared, how they are supported, and their access to curricular resources. The committee noted that the most recent data on teacher educators were collected and disseminated by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education in 2018. However, the data dealt with faculty in colleges of education, not specifically teacher educators; as such, the committee was unable to address questions related to this important piece of the teacher education workforce.
Lastly, the committee also considered what it would mean to take programs and practices to scale. The committee examined the current state of the evidence for teacher education and concluded that the evidence is relatively limited for preservice teacher education programs (see Chapter 5) and is more robust for inservice professional development (PD), but remains mixed (see Chapter 6 as it relates to PD that occurs outside of the
workplace and Chapter 7 for job-embedded PD). Moreover, the committee investigated trends in the national labor market and observed that aggregated national statistics mask what is happening regionally. This gave rise to the conclusion that there is no national teacher labor market. Chapter 4 makes a strong case for this claim through the examination of policies and practices that give rise to what is happening in schools, districts, and states. Furthermore, with the changes in expectations for K–12 teachers (see Chapter 3), the committee found that there was disagreement on what kinds of outcomes should matter and how these are linked with policy and programming in teacher education and programming. Taken together, the committee found it challenging to specify a uniform course of action for taking programs and practices to scale. Instead the committee chose to identify areas of additional research that could get the field closer to understanding how to take programs to scale.
To study how the state of education in the United States has changed, data from several large national databases as well as the extant literature was examined. The major sources of data are listed below.
The Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) was conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) seven times between 1987 through 2011. SASS was designed to provide descriptive data regarding the context of elementary and secondary education by investigating public and private school districts, schools, principals, and teachers. As a large and comprehensive source of data, SASS covered a wide range of areas including teacher demand, teacher and principal characteristics, general conditions in schools, principals’ and teachers’ perceptions of school climate and problems in their schools, teacher compensation, district hiring and retention practices, and basic characteristics of the student population.
After 2010–2011, NCES redesigned SASS and termed it the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) to reflect the tool’s new emphasis on the teacher and principal labor market as well as on the state of K–12
school staff. NTPS, which was first conducted by NCES in 2015 to 2016, is a system of related questionnaires that provide descriptive data on the context of public elementary and secondary education while also providing policy makers with a variety of statistics on the condition of education in the United States. By focusing on flexibility, timeliness, and integration with other education data, the NTPS system allows for the characteristics of principals, teachers, and students to be analyzed in detail.
However, there are a number of limitations to this data source including: (1) reporting standards are not met for many of the demographic variables in various data collection years; (2) there are no school-level data listed for teachers from Hawaiian/Pacific Islander or American Indian/Alaska Native backgrounds, and there are between 8 and 11 school-level characteristics missing for teachers from Latino, Black, Asian, and White backgrounds, per racial/ethnic group; (3) only a few teachers are sampled in any school; (4) professional development items have been dropped from the survey; and (5) classroom process variables are not connected to student achievement and/or attainment variables.
Civil Rights Data Collection, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Annual Report to Congress, and Common Core of Data3
Because national data on the extent to which individual students’ teachers are fully certified (and the characteristics of those students) are not currently available in comparable specifications or across all states, school-level data from the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) and the NCES Common Core of Data (CCD) were used to determine the degree to which schools with high proportions of certain types of students and schools located in rural and urban areas have teachers who are not fully certified. More specifically, CRDC data were used for the 2011–2012 and 2013–2014 school years to determine the number of teachers overall and the numbers of teachers who are not certified, total student enrollment, student enrollment by race and ethnicity, and enrollment of English learners (ELs). The characteristics of students with disabilities were available in the 2018 OSEP Annual Report to Congress. The committee combined these data with CCD data for the same year on numbers of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and enrollment in rural and urban schools.
The quality of the data depends on accurate collection and reporting by participating districts via district superintendents, or the superintendents’ designees, who certify the CRDC submissions, inconsistencies may exist in
the data file. That is, outliers (as well as null or missing data) in the dataset may be a function of districts misreporting data.
The committee was charged with describing the changing landscape of K–12 education, exploring the implications of such changes for preservice and inservice teacher education, and providing guidance on how to take programs to scale. Chapter 2 gives an overview of the broader landscape, first sketching the current demographics of teachers and then exploring other facets of K–12 education: the importance of a diverse teacher workforce, increasing diversity in the student population, how federal policies have contributed to an emphasis on accountability and student achievement, and changes to national content areas standards.
Chapter 3 focuses on many of the questions within the first bullet of the charge. It provides a closer look at how deeper learning has been articulated within disciplinary guidance documents and standards. It also examines changing expectations for teachers in light of changing expectation for student learning and ensuring teachers are equipped to teach in an increasingly diverse classroom.
Chapter 4 delves into the trends observed in the teacher labor market. The chapter begins with a presentation of the current state of the labor market, including teacher supply and demand, the long-standing labor market misalignment, pathways into the profession, and localness of teacher labor markets. It then describes other factors that have implications for the workforce, including teacher mobility, the equitable distribution of teachers, working conditions, teacher evaluation, pay, constraints, and desirability of the teaching profession.
Chapters 5, 6, and 7 address the remaining aspects of the charge. Chapter 5 describes the landscape of preservice teacher education, highlighting the variety of preparation programs and illustrating the varied ways in which teacher candidates are prepared to teach to meet the changing expectations of the K–12 classroom. Chapter 6 describes the landscape of inservice professional development, including the proliferation of professional development programs and providers, emerging forms of professional development, and how these experiences contribute to teacher learning and student outcomes. Chapter 7 describes the ways in which workplace conditions, including job-embedded professional learning opportunities that have implications for the support and retention of teachers.
Chapter 8 presents the consensus conclusions and high-priority issues for action that are derived from the evidence provided in the earlier chapters, and articulates an agenda for future research.
National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. (NASEM). (2018a). English Learners in STEM Subjects: Transforming Classrooms, Schools, and Lives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
____. (2018b). How People Learn II: Learners, Contexts, and Cultures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
____. (2019). Science and Engineering for Grades 6–12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
National Research Council. (NRC). (2010). Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
____. (2013). Monitoring Progress Toward Successful K–12 STEM Education: A Nation Advancing? Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
____. (2014). Exploring Opportunities for STEM Teacher Leadership: Summary of a Convocation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
____. (2015). Science Teachers’ Learning: Enhancing Opportunities, Creating Supportive Contexts. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
U.S. Department of Education. (2019) Title II Tips for Reporting. Available: https://title2.ed.gov/public/TA/FAQ.pdf.