In this chapter, the committee provides an overview of the trends in the teacher labor market, highlighting some of the issues that arise from staffing different types of classrooms and subject areas for schools in different labor markets and serving students from diverse backgrounds with varying educational needs. These include issues related to the nature of teacher labor markets and the impacts this has on teacher supply and demand, teacher turnover, and equity of teacher distribution. This chapter also considers the perceived desirability of the teaching profession.
It is important to recognize that descriptions at the national level ignore how states and local entities have control over many factors in the teacher labor market. This holds true for policies (e.g., licensure, salary, tenure, and pensions) and other measures of interest in the labor market (e.g., turnover and exit rates, including retention of teachers of color). Which individuals staff the nation’s classrooms is determined by several different processes that interact with one another and are governed by various state systems. States regulate who is eligible to teach through traditional and alternative licensure policies, but school systems run job searches, evaluate applicants, and make hiring decisions. The fact that individuals are eligible does not mean they will be offered jobs (for recent evidence on teacher hiring and its connection to effectiveness, performance, and retention, see Bruno and
Even though trends may hold true across states, such as the relative decline in teacher salary or increase in the rate of teachers leaving, the degree of change can vary from the state down to the school level. Each additional layer of policy, from the national to the state to the district, creates a more complex matrix of variables. And although data about teachers have improved significantly over the past two decades (Figlio et al., 2016), there is no national annual dataset that includes information about all teachers, how they entered the profession, what credentials they hold, where they teach, or their disability status. Given this, while the committee generally focuses on trends over the past two decades, there may not be data dating that far back in all instances. Additionally, for some aspects of the teacher labor market, when the data are available, earlier datasets are drawn upon if they help to describe important long-term trends.
It is challenging to say definitively how changes to state regulations for who is eligible to teach would affect the teacher workforce in general, or in particular school systems (Boyd et al., 2007). In fact, even at a national level, accurately gauging how many teachers are coming into the profession through different routes is difficult due to the fact that each state defines for itself what constitutes a traditional or alternative route (U.S. Department of Education, 2019).2
There is little doubt, however, that there are public concerns about the desirability of the teaching profession and how that desirability impacts the quality of the teacher workforce. During 2019, there was, for instance, widespread coverage of teacher strikes over compensation and workplace conditions (e.g., Wolf, 2019) as well as stories about declining enrollments in teacher preparation programs since the Great Recession (e.g., Higgins, 2019). Yet disentangling the factors influencing who opts into, or stays, in teaching is complicated given that individuals will be influenced by salary and other workplace conditions as well as perceptions of the prestige of the teaching profession (Martin and Mulvihill, 2016). Some of these factors, such as salary, are often determined at the
1 The committee uses the term “effectiveness” to refer to estimates of a teacher’s contribution to student learning on standardized tests (also referred to sometimes as “value added”). The committee uses the term “performance” to refer to documented teacher performance evaluations. The means by which these are derived can differ by state and locality, but almost always include a classroom observation of teaching practices as a component of the evaluation.
district level, but some states regulate aspects of teacher salaries, and all states (and some counties as well) affect compensation more generally through pension and retirement health care. And the overall prestige of the teaching profession will be influenced by broader societal factors, such as media portrayals of teaching.
Finally, given that the committee is focused on the choices that teachers and their employers are jointly making (Boyd et al., 2013) while operating under state regulations, we are cautious about interpreting the findings we describe below as causal. To put this more simply, when making job choices people are faced with a lot of options and considerations, and there are rarely, if ever, randomized control trials/experiments in the teacher labor market to help in identifying how particular factors influence those choices.
Reports of teacher shortages, also characterized in the broader literature as staffing challenges, have been widely reported in recent years (Dee and Goldhaber, 2017). There are various theories as to the causes of the increased difficulties schools and school systems face in finding qualified teachers to staff the nation’s classrooms. For instance, some suggest that labor market fluctuations have contributed to greater difficulties with finding individuals who are willing to teach, even during the tightening labor market in the past decade since the Great Recession (Blom et al., 2015; Khalil and Chao, forthcoming; Khalil and Griffen, 2012; Nagler et al., forthcoming). Others point to the long-term decline in teacher salaries relative to salaries in other occupations (Allegretto and Mishel, 2018; Hanushek and Pace, 1995), or to the possibility that recent school or teacher accountability policies make teaching a less desirable profession (Kraft et al., 2018). These factors that play a key role in shaping the teacher workforce are discussed in more detail in the section below on the desirability of pursuing a teaching career. However, the committee first turns to a deeper discussion of the changes to the prospective teacher labor supply over time.
One possible reason for recent staffing challenges may be due to the downturn over the past decade in the number of students enrolled in and graduating with a teaching credential from traditional college- and university-based teacher education programs, and reports of a declining interest among young people in pursuing a teaching career (Aragon,
2016; King and Hampel, 2018).3 More recent data, however, suggest that this decline has slowed or even recently reversed (Alderman, 2019; also see Figure 1 in a recent report from the Center for American Progress; Partelow, 2019). Moreover, particularly for some states, there is potential for a longer-term trend of increasing supply of potential new teachers (Partelow, 2019). However, there is limited evidence that points to specific changes (e.g., active recruitment, modernization of programs) that has led to these trends.
Whereas the total number of education degrees granted in 2013 was down slightly from the 2011 peak of slightly more than 300,000, it was far higher than the production of teaching credentials in any year from 1985 to 2005 (see Figure 4-1).4 And the number of credentials granted far exceeds the number of newly hired teachers, typically by 100,000 or more in any year (Cowan et al., 2016).
3 A survey of college of education deans showed enrollment was reported to have declined in 82 percent of the institutions, and deans cited “perceptions of teaching as an undesirable career as the number-one reason for the enrollment drop” (King and Hampel, 2018, p. 63).
4 Though as we elaborate below, it is probably misleading to look exclusively at national figures because the regulation of teacher labor markets is a state function and there are considerable barriers to cross-state teacher mobility.
There is good evidence that in the past decades (from the 1960s to late 1990s), college graduates with high standardized test scores were less likely to become teachers. Some of this trend could be attributed to the increasing labor market opportunities—due to reductions in structural barriers to participating in different labor markets—for women and people of color beginning in the 1960s (Corcoran et al., 2004). Importantly, the disproportionately low number of teachers of high academic caliber (as measured by college entrance exams) of teachers has not persisted in more recent decades (Goldhaber and Walch, 2014; Lankford et al., 2014).5
Regional heterogeneity in staffing challenges underscores that there is no national labor market for teachers. The national picture painted by aggregate figures masks the fact that there are more acute teacher shortage issues for particular states, “hard-to-staff” schools serving traditionally disadvantaged students (Dee and Goldhaber, 2017; Ingersoll, 2003; Sutcher et al., 2016; Will, 2016), and rural schools that are geographically far from teacher education systems (Goldhaber et al., 2018). In a study of Chicago schools (Engel et al., 2014), for instance, the number of applicants per school in a year ranged from more than 300 to fewer than 5, and schools serving more advantaged student populations were far more likely to have multiple applications per open teaching slot. The committee will look at the specific issue of staffing challenges for schools serving students from traditionally disadvantaged backgrounds in more detail below when describing inequities in the distribution of teacher quality across students.
Staffing challenges arise in part because heterogeneous state regulations make it more difficult for teachers to cross state borders. As noted above, states regulate teacher labor markets through licensure, seniority, tenure, and pensions in ways that create barriers to cross-state teacher mobility (Dee and Goldhaber, 2017). Several studies focusing on the interstate mobility of teachers find it to be far lower than within-state mobility, even for teachers who are working on a state border, such that an employment move from one state to another would not necessitate a residential move (Goldhaber et al., 2015a; Kim et al., 2016; Podgursky et al., 2016). Goldhaber and colleagues (2015a), for instance, examined the Oregon–Washington cross-state mobility of teachers and found that even in the Portland–Vancouver
5 There is disagreement about whether the long-term decline in the academic caliber is more closely connected to the average salaries in other occupations (Corcoran et al., 2004) or the compression of pay inside the teaching profession at the same time that salaries in the private sector have trended toward greater rewards to strong academic skills (Hoxby and Leigh, 2004).
metropolitan area that straddles the border, within-state moves are eight times more likely among teachers than moves to a school in the other state.
Although staffing challenges vary by state, they tend to be more acute in “hard-to-staff” specific subject areas; in particular, there are long-standing staffing challenges in mathematics (Liu et al., 2008) and science (commonly referred to as “STEM”), as well as in special education. Cowan and colleagues (2016) show that in every year that school systems have been surveyed about the difficulty of filling open teaching slots, STEM and special education are consistently cited as the hardest subjects to fill (see Figure 4-2). Buttressing this reporting, Goldhaber and colleagues (2014) found that the probability that a student teacher employed in a public school in Washington (the same state in which their student teaching was observed) after receiving a teaching credential is more than 10 percentage points higher for student teachers who receive an endorsement in a STEM or special education area relative to elementary education. Despite these consistent patterns, the teacher labor market does not appear to be very responsive to challenges in staffing particular subject areas in terms of the training of new teachers (Goldhaber et al., 2015b). Goldhaber and colleagues found that over a 30-year period within Washington State, production of new teachers with elementary endorsements far exceeded the number of estimated openings in that area, while the in-state production of new teachers in STEM and special education was consistently less than the number of openings.
The long-standing misalignment of teacher supply and demand across subject areas and school types (e.g., private, public, charter) might be considered a feature of the teacher labor market. Why the labor market does not adjust to supply and demand conditions is a matter of much speculation (Goldhaber et al., 2011). The mechanism through which we would expect adjustments in the private sector—wages—is less readily adjustable in
public schools because teacher salaries are subject to a public policy-making process. Also, as just described, state-specific licensure, tenure, and pension policies likely constrain labor market mobility, making it more difficult for schools to hire qualified teachers from other states when vacancies arise.
Finally, there is significant misalignment between the race and ethnicity of students and teachers (discussed in Chapter 2); there may also be misalignment with respect to disability status, but there are limited data to address this question. This misalignment, particularly for categories of race and ethnicity, exists despite some increases in the diversity of the teacher workforce over the past 30 years (e.g., Ingersoll et al., 2017).6Villegas et al. (2012), for instance, finds that the share of teachers of color increased from 13 percent to 17 percent from 1987 to 2007; by 2016, the share had increased to about 20 percent (Hansen and Quintero, 2019). As such, the relative changes in the labor market are less pronounced when looking back over the past 10 to 20 years—which was the charge given to the committee—than what is observed in comparisons with a wider timeframe. Yet despite these small increases in teacher diversity, the “diversity gap”—measured by the percentage point differential between teachers and students of color—has increased because the racial/ethnic diversity of the student body has risen more quickly than the diversity of the teacher workforce.
The difficulty of filling some teaching specialties or staffing schools that have been considered traditionally disadvantaged may be an important impetus for the creation of specific pathways into the profession or programs designed to address the misalignment issues we described above. Some programs targeting areas of need operate as part of traditional college- and university-based education. The UTeach program, for example, focuses on encouraging and training students to teach in math and science. It was originally created in 1997 at the University of Texas at Austin, but there are now UTeach programs in more than 20 states (Backes et al., 2018).
Programs such as UTeach, Teach For America, The New Teacher Project (TNTP), and Teach.com, illustrate the complex and sprawling landscape of teacher recruitment, preparation, and placement. These are
6 Over the longer term, dating back to the 1960s and 1970s, there likely has been a drop in the overall racial/ethnic diversity in the teacher workforce, particularly in the South, where Black teachers and leaders lost their jobs in large numbers, often to less qualified White teachers and leaders (Fenwick, 2019, personal communication), as a result of school desegregation efforts. While many of them moved to a teaching job in the North, many others never returned to the teacher labor market (Thompson, 2019).
all programs that have emerged since the mid-1990s and play interrelated, and sometimes overlapping roles in drawing new people into teaching, preparing them, and addressing the difficulties that hard-to-staff schools face in recruiting new teachers. But it is difficult to definitively categorize these types of programs given that the role they play may vary from state to state depending on a state’s licensure policies. As noted above, the definition of what constitutes an alternative program is left up to states. Thus, in some states, Teach For America, for example, would be considered an alternative route (or alternative licensure) program, commonly thought of as one in which teachers can be the teacher of record while not having completed all of the traditional preservice licensure requirements.7 But in other states, Teach For America corps members are required to satisfy the same preservice requirements as individuals obtaining traditional teacher licenses. In short, university, non-university, and online programs can all be either alternative or traditional (and institutions, like universities, can house both alternative and traditional programs), and as a result the traditional/alternative nomenclature will often be insufficient for program categorization.
As noted above, it is difficult to accurately gauge how many teachers come into the profession through alternative routes because what constitutes an alternative route is defined by each state and, moreover, college- and university-based teacher education programs can operate alternative route programs (U.S. Department of Education, 2019). Consequently, some disagreement exists about the extent to which alternative route programs play a role in supplying new teachers. Still, a striking change to the structure of the teacher labor market over the past 35 years is the increased proportion of teachers who are entering the profession through alternative routes. In the mid-1980s, fewer than a dozen states had any type of alternative route programs, but by 2000 the great majority did (Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, 2004).8 Data available in recent years suggest that over the past decade the growth in individuals with alternative credentials as a share of people preparing to teach has declined. For
7 Specifically, Title II of the Higher Education Act defines alternative route programs as “preparation programs [that] typically serve candidates whom states permit to be the teachers of record in a classroom while working toward obtaining an initial teaching credential” and notes that “for purposes of HEA Title II reporting, each state determines which teacher preparation programs are classified as alternative programs) (U.S. Department of Education, 2016, p. 7).
example, the share of alternative program completers was about 20 percent in 2007–2008 versus 15 percent in 2012–2013; in each year about one-half of the alternative program completers were from a college- or university-based alternative program.9
What is clearer is that the use of alternative routes varies considerably by state. A recent report issued by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) shows that the percentage of teacher candidates enrolled in alternative programs was 0 percent in West Virginia but greater than 70 percent in Texas (SREB, 2018).
It also appears that alternative routes are more likely to bring teachers of color into the profession (Kabaker, 2012, U.S. Department of Education, 2016). However, nontraditional teacher education providers are small enough as a fraction of the overall supply of new teachers that observers question whether the efforts of these programs can constitute more than a small component of an overall strategy to diversify the teacher workforce (Putman et al., 2016). Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions are another important source of teachers of color (for additional information, see Chapter 5). As of 2012–2013, for example, HBCUs enrolled 2 percent of candidates in institutes of higher education–based teacher preparation programs, but 16 percent of all such candidates who identified as Black.
Another trend in alternative teacher training is the increasing number of new teachers being prepared through online programs, many of which are at for-profit institutions (Sawchuk, 2013). Here too, however, the exact numbers are murky because they depend on how one defines online preparation. In a survey conducted by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education of its member schools, 70 percent of respondents claimed to offer distance-education courses; moreover, the U.S. Department of Education reported that the four largest education schools in 2011 were online programs (Liu, 2013).
One consistent feature of the pathway a teacher candidate takes into the profession—whether traditional or alternative—is that it tends to be localized; teachers tend to work close to where they did their training and/or went to high school (Khalil and Chao, forthcoming). Boyd and colleagues (2005a) finds “teacher labor markets to be geographically very small. Teachers express preferences to teach close to where they grew up
and, controlling for proximity, they prefer areas with characteristics similar to their hometown.”10 The localness of labor markets arises in different contexts (e.g., Krieg et al., 2016) and is also found in national data, which show that teacher labor markets appear to be more localized than other occupations (Reininger, 2012). And while proximity to teacher education programs predicts first jobs, the location of student teaching is even more predictive.11 Thus, where student teaching occurs might be a policy lever for addressing teacher shortages or the equity of teacher quality distribution (discussed below).
It is not clear precisely why teacher labor markets are so localized, because it is difficult to distinguish between the preferences of hiring officials from those of teacher candidates.12 Nevertheless, this strong connection between specific teacher education programs and schools has important equity implications (Goldhaber, 2018). Teachers tend to grow up and go to college in more advantaged areas (Engel and Cannata, 2015), and student teaching tends to occur in more advantaged schools (Krieg et al., 2016).
Some of the localness of teacher labor markets results from the aforementioned state-specific licensure, tenure, and pensions. Again, while there is relatively little evidence on the between-state mobility of teachers, the evidence that does exist shows that very few teachers with inservice experience in one state show up in another state’s public school workforce. This finding is not surprising given that teachers who move from one state to another have to navigate different state licensure rules, often will take a hit on pension wealth, and may lose tenure protections (Goldhaber, Grout, and Holden, 2017a,b). In addition to the localness promoted by state borders, the degree of localness may be related to the institutional structures of teacher preparation and K–12 schooling (e.g., the number and size of teacher education programs and school districts). These structures can be quite different across states. For example, in Florida, research by Mihaly et al. (2013) finds that more than 50 percent of schools employed teachers from a single teacher education program. By contrast, in Washington State, less than 20 percent of schools are found to employ teachers from just a single program (Goldhaber et al., 2014).
10Boyd et al. (2005a) report that nearly 70 percent of new teachers in New York find a job within 40 miles of where they obtained their teaching credential. Krieg et al. (2016) find over half of first jobs are within 25 miles of home and about two-thirds are within 50 miles. And, using data from online applications to school systems in Vermont, Killeen et al. (2015) also find that over half of first jobs are within 25 miles of where teachers grew up.
Teaching is marked by substantial turnover. According to estimates from the 2011–2012 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) and 2012–2013 Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS), the annual turnover rate for U.S. public school teachers is 16 percent (Goldring, Taie, and Riddles, 2014). This turnover rate—where turnover is defined as any case in which a teacher in year t is no longer teaching in the same school in year t + 1—is split evenly between teachers who move to other schools but remain in teaching (8%) and teachers who exit the teaching profession (8%).13 The turnover rate is just down from a peak of 16.5 percent in 2004–2005 (with an 8.4% exit rate) but higher than rates reported in earlier SASS waves; the annual turnover rate was just 12.4 percent as recently as 1991–1992, a year when just 5.1 percent of teachers exited (see Figure 4-3). There is mixed evidence about whether we should consider teacher turnover to be high relative to turnover in other occupations. For instance, according to Ingersoll, Merrill, and Stuckey (2014), exit rates from teaching are higher than those for nurses (and much higher than professionals in the fields of law, engineering, architecture, and academia), but Harris and Adams (2007) find little difference in turnover across competing occupations after adjusting for demographics.
13 The largest category of leavers is retirees (Goldring, Taie, and Riddles, 2014). About 30 percent of teachers classified as exiters in fact remain in K–12 education but not as a regular classroom teacher. Also, nearly 60 percent of teachers who change schools move within the same district rather than to another school district.
Average national turnover rates mask significant differences among geographical areas. Turnover is substantially higher in the South (16.7% according to the 2012–2013 TFS) than elsewhere; the turnover rate in the Northeast Census region is only 10.3 percent (Carver-Thomas and Darling-Hammond, 2017). Turnover also tends to be higher in cities than in suburbs or more rural areas, though research also demonstrates that turnover rates can vary widely even among urban districts (Papay et al., 2017).
A large body of research demonstrates that teachers are much less likely to stay in some kinds of schools than others (see Box 4-1). In particular, turnover is substantially more common in schools with larger numbers of students of color and students living in poverty (Borman and Dowling, 2008; Boyd et al., 2005b; Guarino, Santibañez, and Daley, 2006; Hanushek, Kain, and Rivkin, 2004; Ingersoll, 2001; Ladd, 2011; Lankford, Loeb, and Wyckoff, 2002). Higher turnover rates in such schools often are attributed to lower-quality working conditions and are correlated with factors such as less effective leaders, greater leadership churn, fewer resources, and less adequate facilities (Bartanen, Grissom, and Rogers, 2019; Grissom, 2011; Grissom, Viano, and Selin, 2015; Johnson, Kraft, and Papay, 2012; Ladd, 2011; Loeb, Darling-Hammond, and Luczak, 2005).
Average rates also mask differences in turnover rates among teachers with different characteristics. These include level of experience, subject taught, and race and ethnicity of the teacher. For example, turnover is highest among beginning teachers, though exit rates among new teachers are substantially lower than once believed; according to estimates from the Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study, 17 percent of new teachers in 2007–2008 were no longer teaching as of 2011–2012 (Gray and Taie, 2015). These high rates of attrition for novice teachers have been linked to low pay for new teachers under fixed salary schedules, a “sink or swim” mentality in which new teachers are thrown into isolated classrooms with little support, and new teachers’ low initial investment in the profession as they go through a “trying on” phase with teaching (Grissom, Viano, and Selin, 2015; Johnson and Birkeland, 2003; Peske et al., 2001). Turnover rates and exit rates are also substantially higher for teachers of some subjects, with particularly high turnover rates for mathematics, science, special education, and English language development teachers as compared to general elementary teachers (Carver-Thomas and Darling-Hammond, 2017).
Research conflicts on how race/ethnicity correlates with turnover, with some studies finding higher turnover rates among White teachers and others finding slightly higher turnover rates among teachers of color, depending on what other factors are adjusted for (e.g., Achinstein et al., 2010; Borman and Dowling, 2008; Carver-Thomas and Darling-Hammond, 2017; Guarino, Santibañez, and Daley, 2006). However, more research is still needed to further interrogate which factors are essential in giving rise to these observed differences in turnover rates with respect to race and ethnicity. Whereas earlier studies had not found important differences (Grissom, 2008), in more recent years teachers entering through alternate routes are more likely to turn
over than traditionally certified teachers, even conditioning on characteristics of their schools and other factors (Redding and Smith, 2016).
Research also is not conclusive about whether more effective teachers are more likely to stay in their schools.14 Some studies find that more effective teachers are more likely to stay in teaching or in the same school (Feng and Sass, 2011; Goldhaber, Gross, and Player, 2011; Krieg, 2006; West and Chingos, 2009). Others find that more effective teachers are more likely to leave teaching, especially early in their careers (Clotfelter, Ladd, and Vigdor, 2007; Wiswall, 2013). Still others find evidence that whether effectiveness positively predicts turnover depends on school level (Harris and Sass, 2011). Higher rates among ineffective teachers may be due to nontrivial rates of involuntary staffing action, such as contract nonrenewal, particularly among novice teachers (Gray and Taie, 2015), while higher rates among effective teachers may reflect higher returns to job skills in nonteaching professions (Chingos and West, 2012).
Effective teachers may be especially more likely to transfer from less to more advantaged schools (Boyd et al., 2005b; Feng and Sass, 2011; West and Chingos, 2009). Sorting of teachers toward more advantaged schools—as measured by student characteristics—across their careers is a well-documented pattern (Lankford, Loeb, and Wyckoff, 2002). This sorting typically occurs within districts; nearly 60 percent of teachers who change schools move within the same district rather than to another school district (Goldring, Taie, and Riddles, 2014). Across-district sorting is especially uncommon across state lines. State-specific licensing requirements, seniority rules, and the lack of portability for teachers’ defined benefit pensions appear to constrain teacher labor markets to be local and segmented (Dee and Goldhaber, 2017). For instance, studies find that the interstate mobility of teachers, even those residing near state borders, is substantially below levels that would be expected in light of levels of within-state mobility (e.g., Goldhaber et al., 2015a; Podgursky et al., 2016).
Given the aforementioned staffing challenges and trends in teacher mobility, it is all but a forgone conclusion that there is inequity in the distribution of teachers across students. Importantly, there is no uniformly agreed upon means of determining the “quality” of teachers, but there is long-standing evidence from a variety of settings that teacher qualifications are inequitably distributed with students of color and students living in poverty tending to be assigned to less experienced and less credentialed teachers
14 By “effective,” we mean teachers who have higher value added, a statistical measure of how much teachers are contributing to the test score growth of the students in their classrooms.
A newer body of evidence also shows inequity in the distribution of teacher effectiveness (as measured by their value added) (Goldhaber et al., 2015a; Isenberg et al., 2016; Mansfield, 2015; Sass et al., 2010) and documented performance (Cowan et al., 2017).15 There is some disagreement about the magnitude or import of teacher quality gaps (TQGs), but these gaps are another clear feature of the teacher labor market. They also are not new. Goldhaber and colleagues (2017) investigated the distribution of teacher quality over several decades in North Carolina and Washington State and found that “TQGs exist in every year in each state, and for all measures [of quality]” (abstract). In other words, the available evidence suggests that inequity in the distribution of teacher quality, however it is measured, is a consistent feature of the teacher labor market.
There is a significant amount of research that touches on issues of the desirability of the teaching profession. Discussions of desirability can be organized around two topics: compensation and working conditions.
According to the Digest of Education Statistics, teachers’ annual salaries averaged $58,950 in 2016–2017. In constant dollars, average salaries are considerably higher than in 1970 ($55,411) or 1980 ($49,917), but in fact lower than in 1990 ($59,944) or 2000 ($59,924). This 1.6 percent decline in average salary nationally from 2000 to 2017 (see Figure 4-4) is small relative to the declines in some states (e.g., 15.7% in Indiana, 15.0% in Colorado).16 These declines matter because the best available evidence suggests that lower pay increases teacher turnover (Hendricks, 2014); approximately a fifth of exiting teachers report financial reasons as being “very important” in their decision to leave teaching (Carver-Thomas and Darling-Hammond, 2017). Indeed, many teachers report moonlighting (having second jobs) to make ends meet (Blair, 2018; Startz, 2018).
15 Again, value added is a statistical means of assessing teacher contributions to student test score gains, and document performance refers to the performance evaluations that teachers receive from their districts of employment (and the way these are determined can vary across districts and states).
16 Some states have also increased teacher pay substantially over this time period, including North Dakota (20.6%) and Wyoming (19.9%).
This percentage varies by gender (males are more likely) and school level (secondary are more likely). The variation in the percentage is due to how one defines a second job. The ratio of teachers engaging in the practice of working outside their contractual arrangement varies from 15 percent to 71 percent (Blair, 2018, p. 2). Lower salaries may also attract fewer high-quality teachers into the workforce (Ballou and Podgursky, 1995; Martin and Mulvihill, 2016).
Teachers in the United States typically are paid according to a single salary schedule that sets compensation levels by experience and degree attainment. In recent years, school districts increasingly have experimented with alternative compensation schemes, including pay-for-performance and retention bonuses for teachers in hard-to-staff schools or subjects. Effects of such programs on outcomes such as teacher performance and retention, however, have been mixed (e.g., Hill and Jones, 2018; Podgursky and Springer, 2007; Springer et al., 2012; Springer, Swain, and Rodriguez, 2016; Yuan et al., 2013).
Beyond take-home pay, benefits represent a substantial expenditure on teacher compensation for states and school districts. Among these benefits, researchers have raised substantial concern about states’ investments in teacher pensions. Defined-benefit pension systems for public employees are collectively underfunded by potentially several trillion dollars (Novy-Marx and Rauh, 2011), and liabilities for teachers’ pensions are a large portion of this total. As a consequence, a significant portion of current educational
expenditures are going to fund prior pension promises. Backes et al. (2016) estimate that, on average, states set aside more than 10 percent of current teachers’ earnings to pay for pension liabilities already accrued.
The substantial costs of pensions are particularly concerning given that they do not appear to have much influence on making teaching a desirable profession (Goldhaber and Grout, 2016; Holden, 2018). In particular, young and mid-career teachers do not seem to value highly the amount invested in what they perhaps regard as a distant retirement benefit; consequently, Fitzpatrick (2015) estimates that investment in retirement plans is unlikely to yield high returns in attracting employees. Studies have also found little evidence that defined benefit plans are preferred to defined contribution plans by more effective teachers (Chingos and West, 2015; Goldhaber and Grout, 2016), nor that defined benefit plans produce lower teacher turnover than other plans (Goldhaber, Grout, and Holden, 2017a,b). However, given the incentives they create, pension plans can distort the work behavior of late-career teachers. In particular, they push out teachers when their accrued pension wealth peaks, including teachers who might have otherwise preferred to remain in teaching (Koedel, Podgursky, and Shi, 2013; Koedel and Xiang, 2017). That said, much is not known about alternatives to traditional defined pension plans in education because defined benefit plans are so prevalent, thus it is important not to jump to strong conclusions about the potential efficacy of alternative types of pension arrangements for teachers.
Research on teacher working conditions often focuses on factors that predict teacher turnover, as discussed previously. Factors associated with more positive teacher working conditions include high-quality school leadership (Grissom, 2011; Ladd, 2011), better school facilities (Buckley, Schneider, and Shang, 2005; Loeb, Darling-Hammond, and Luczak, 2005), more robust teacher support systems (Borman and Dowling, 2008; Ladd, 2011), more positive teacher relationships (Kraft, Marinell, and Yee, 2016), and greater autonomy and input into school decisions (Guarino, Santibañez, and Daley, 2006; Ingersoll, 2001; Ingersoll and May, 2012). Although we have less evidence about working conditions and entrants to the teaching profession, it is likely that more positive working conditions allow for attracting a higher-quality teacher workforce by raising the overall desirability of teaching.
The recent accountability, teacher evaluation, and tenure reform movements have generated substantial discussion about whether these changes to the education policy environment have impacted the desirability of teaching. However, the evidence with respect to these questions is limited. Some research suggests that, counter to conventional wisdom, No Child
Left Behind (NCLB) alone may not have led to substantial impacts on the desirability of the teaching profession. That is, NCLB had minimal impact on the job attitudes of teachers or their turnover rates (Grissom, Nicholson-Crotty, and Harrington, 2014; Sun, Saultz, and Ye, 2017). Moreover, the research also suggests that more academically capable people are entering teaching in the era since NCLB’s enactment (Goldhaber and Walch, 2014; Lankford et al., 2014).
Multiple-measure teacher evaluation systems—that is, those that pair rubric-based classroom observations with measures of student achievement and/or growth—have become near-universal in the post-Race to the Top era (Steinberg and Donaldson, 2016). Research suggests that teachers increase productivity (as measured by increases in their students’ test scores) in response to evaluation (Taylor and Tyler, 2012). Some evidence suggests that implementation of evaluation reforms resulted in declines in the supply of new teachers (Kraft et al., 2018). However, a study of evaluation implementation in Chicago Public Schools found no effect on teacher turnover for the average teacher but higher turnover among low-rated teachers, suggesting that schools used evaluation information to make staffing decisions (Sartain and Steinberg, 2016). Evidence consistent with schools’ use of evaluation information to retain high-performing teachers and remove low-performing ones has been found elsewhere (Dee and Wyckoff, 2015; Grissom and Bartanen, 2019).
More generally, emerging evidence suggests that the availability of multiple measures of teacher performance, including standardized, rubric-based measures of teacher instructional strengths and weaknesses of the kind that have become widespread in the post-Race to the Top era, might be leveraged to facilitate teacher improvement. Principals report using teacher evaluation information for feedback and teacher support strategies (Kraft and Gilmour, 2016; Neumerski et al., 2018). Experimental evidence suggests that classroom observation information can be used to increase teacher performance by pairing teachers with areas of weakness with other teachers in their school with a complementary strength to work together for improvement (Papay et al., 2016).
There are competing views about how to address staffing challenges related to certain subjects and how to address the inequitable distribution of teachers. But as emphasized throughout the chapter, it is important to recognize that descriptions at the national level ignore how states and local entities have control over many factors in the teacher labor market. This holds true for policies (e.g., licensure, salary, tenure, and pensions) and other measures of interest in the labor market (e.g., turnover and exit rates, including retention of teachers of color). Each layer of policy from
the national to the state to the district creates a more complex matrix of variables. Even though some trends may hold true across states, such as the relative decline in teacher salary or increase in teacher leave rate, the degree of change can vary from the state down to the school level. The complexity of many factors at different layers makes it difficult to determine causality between the factors in the labor market and how individual teachers and teacher candidates make decisions regarding their careers.
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