The greater tendency, the
researchers found, was for teachers to switch to schools with fewer
minority students, higher test scores, and smaller percentages of
"People have suggested that maybe you
have to pay more for teachers to work in tougher schools," said Mr.
Hanushek, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover
Institution. "These findings suggest that a lot more attention should
be given to working conditions and the preferences of teachers in
The research, published in November by
the National Bureau of Economic Research, a Cambridge, Mass.,
research group, is the latest in a series of studies examining the
teacher labor market through the increasingly detailed databases that
some states are compiling. With reports of teacher shortages growing,
questions about how schools can attract and keep qualified teachers
have taken on a new urgency, researchers say.
that was available before for asking questions about teachers was
usually national data sets, where you follow an individual and see
who goes into teaching," said Susanna Loeb, an assistant professor of
education at Stanford University.
She has conducted some
of the new studies in New York state. "It's only recently that we've
begun to think not only about who goes into teaching, but where they
go once they get there."
For example, the Texas
data—developed by the University of Texas at Dallas—offer
information on the districts losing and gaining teachers as well as
student test scores.
Ms. Loeb and other researchers
studying teachers' career patterns cautioned against interpreting the
new findings from that state to mean that teachers don't want to
teach poor or minority students.
they say, may just be stand-ins for other, unmeasured conditions in
the schools the teachers left behind. Those might include, for
example, crumbling buildings, unsafe neighborhoods, classes bursting
at the seams, or inadequate resources.
"What is the message here is that the challenge of
teaching in schools that have large percentages of poor children is
greater," said Richard J. Murnane, a Harvard University professor of
education. "Paying people extra money to do an impossible job doesn't
work, and you need to make the jobs doable such that at the end of
the day, people feel glad that they're there."
study, Mr. Hanushek and his colleagues focused on teachers who had
been in the field for less than a decade, a group that accounts for
three-fourths of all job changes made by teachers in Texas.
Of that group, an average of 79 percent do not change schools
at all in the course of a year. Another 14 percent leave Texas public
schools altogether, 4 percent switch to another school in the same
district, and 3 percent change districts.
the study, the relocated teachers, on average, earned only 0.4
percent more at their new jobs— and slightly more when other
employment benefits were taken into account.
comparison, the shift to better-performing, wealthier schools and
districts was greater in magnitude. On average, standardized-test
scores in the districts to which teachers moved were 3 percentile
points higher than those for their previous districts, the study
The achievement differences were particularly
high for the teachers who left their urban districts for suburban
ones, where students scored an average of 14 percentile points
higher. The percentage of minority students in those receiving
districts was also 15 percent to 20 percent lower.
pattern appeared to be slightly different, however, for
African-American teachers, most of whom tended to stay in districts
with greater concentrations of black students.
the problem is: Is this the preference of black teachers, or do
school districts just put black teachers with black kids?" Mr.
To compensate for conditions that seem to
drive teachers away from more troubled schools and systems, Mr.
Hanushek and his colleagues figure that districts would have to pay
those teachers 20 percent to 50 percent more than their colleagues
elsewhere in the state.
That calculation does not take
into account changes in working conditions, such as flexible
scheduling or school-based management, that might also draw more
teachers to difficult schools.
While Mr. Hanushek's
study focused on Texas, other statewide studies of the teacher labor
market have been conducted—or are in the works—in North
Carolina and New York state. All of the studies reinforce the view
that the schools most in need of good teachers are those with either
the least experienced or the least qualified teachers.
In a study scheduled to be presented at an economics meeting in
Atlanta this month, for example, Helen F. Ladd and her