Tag Archives: teacher shortage

Georgia Addressed Its Teacher Shortages With This One Trick

Despite drops in the number of students pursuing teaching degrees, there’s no such thing as a national “teacher” shortage. That’s because districts don’t need to hire generic “teachers.” Instead, they need to hire teachers with specific licenses to fit specific roles in their schools, like elementary bilingual and dual language instruction, or middle school social studies, or high school biology.

Each of these areas has a different balance between supply and demand. For example, in Illinois we found that the state is licensing about 12 social studies teachers for every one that gets hired in the state. In contrast, for every three special education teachers the state produces, two find jobs.

In short, we have chronic teacher shortages in some fields, and a huge over-supply in others. And addressing specific shortage areas calls for targeted policy solutions.

That’s exactly what Georgia did. Their math and science teachers were leaving the state’s classrooms at higher rates than other teachers, so in 2010 they began paying them more money. Any math and science teacher in grades K-5 qualified for an annual $1,000 stipend, and new math and science teachers in grades 6-12 were paid as if they were six-year veteran teachers (that qualified them for bonuses worth $2,500 to $4,500, or 7-14 percent of their base salary).

The extra money paid off. According to a new working study* by Carycruz Bueno and Tim R. Sass, the pay incentives cut math and science teacher turnover rates by 35 percent. The graph below shows what this looks like. The blue line represents the cumulative retention rates of math and science teachers who were not eligible for the bonuses (they may not have had full certification or entered the profession before the program began). The red line represents teachers who did qualify for the bonuses. As the graph shows, teachers who received the extra financial support were much more likely to stay as teachers. The gaps did not close even when the bonuses ended after five years, which suggests that the money had both short- and long-term benefits in terms of retaining math and science teachers.

Georgia supplemental pay_teacher retention

Other states and school districts could easily replicate Georgia’s success. But first, they’d have to acknowledge there are unique challenges in attracting and retaining different types of teachers and that there’s no generic national teacher shortage.

*Sass and Bueno also presented their findings at a recent CALDER conference. Their presentation can be downloaded here.

Teacher Shortage? That Depends on Your Definitions of “Supply” and “Demand”

Teachers wanted signI published a blog post late last month questioning the numbers in a recent paper on teacher shortages from the Learning Policy Institute (LPI). After speaking with Linda Darling-Hammond, one of the report’s authors, and reading their written rebuttal, I have a clearer sense of what they did and why their numbers seemed off to me.

From what I can tell, our disagreement centers on their definition of the word “supply.” Their report says this:

In this report, we use a theoretical framework of supply and demand that defines a teacher shortage as an inadequate quantity of qualified individuals willing to offer their services under prevailing wages and conditions.

The last part is key. What they mean by “individuals willing to offer their services under prevailing wages” essentially means “people who will be hired as teachers.” They have no data on job applicants or anyone’s desire or willingness to teach. They do attempt to include people who delay entry into the teaching profession, but their assumptions lead them to exclude almost all of the people who train to become teachers who never land a teaching job.

This is a questionable definition, and it leads to some weird conclusions. Continue reading

Updated: There’s A Huge Flaw in the “Teacher Shortage” Data

Update: After speaking with the authors of the Learning Policy Institute report and reading their written rebuttal, I made some changes to the post below and have written a longer piece clarifying the issues here

Earlier this month the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) released a report with the worrying title, “A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S.” Although initial coverage mainly took the report at face value, others have started to push back. The National Council of Teacher Quality’s Kate Walsh noted that teacher supply and demand levels look very different depending on state and subject. Mike Antonucci pointed out that we’ve heard the same “teacher shortage” cry before (by the same people), and it turned out to be very, very wrong. And Dan Goldhaber took the long view by pointing out that, contrary to the current narrative, we’ve ramped up teacher production significantly over the last few decades.

In fact, Goldhaber’s piece contains an important but subtle distinction about the LPI report. (Updated) Notably, LPI’s estimates for the total supply in a given year are so low that they nearly match just the number of people who complete a program in that year.  Continue reading

An Innovative Way to Address Teacher Shortages: Higher Pay for High-Demand Positions

Dean Baker had a sort of snarky reaction to the latest round of “teacher shortage” stories: Employers should raise salaries to attract more workers.

He’s right, teacher pay is low and flat, but Baker’s solution of across-the-board raises only makes sense in a world where we were suffering from a general, national teacher shortage. We aren’t. Teacher shortages tend to be regional and specific to particular schools and particular positions within schools.

So while across-the-board raises might be a good thing to do, they won’t solve the long-term problem of hard-to-staff schools and subjects. To do that, districts need to implement extra incentives to make their shortage areas more attractive. But districts aren’t doing that. As we showed in a report last fall, the percentage of districts using extra pay incentives for teachers in shortage areas has barely budged. It was at 12 percent in 2003-4, and it was only up to 14 percent as of 2011-12.

Teacher pay incentives remain uncommon

Even if we take merit and performance off the table, more districts should recognize that, if they are having difficulty hiring for certain positions, year after year after year, they should do something to make those positions more attractive. Higher pay would be a good first step.

California Has a Chance to Fix Its Teacher Diversity Problem

Could tackling California’s teacher shortage also increase the state’s teacher diversity? It’s no secret there are vast race differences between California’s students and teachers. More than half of K-12 students in the state are Latino or Hispanic, but less than one in five teachers share their racial/ethnic background. This is troublesome because teacher diversity matters: Diverse teachers may provide more culturally relevant instruction and could have a greater impact on improving academic outcomes for students of color.

CA teacher diversity SY14-15

Source: DataQuest, California Department of Education, http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/. Continue reading