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Teaching Force Continues to Grow

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The teaching force has continued to grow larger, less experienced, and more racially diverse, as high rates of teacher turnover continue, a new analysis shows.

Richard Ingersoll, a professor of education and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, studied nearly three decades of federal data on teachers—from 1987 to 2016—to explore what changes have taken place over time. His latest update, released last week, uses data from the National Teacher and Principal Survey. Among the key findings:

Forty-four percent of new teachers leave the field within five years.

Almost two decades ago, Ingersoll estimated that up to half of those who become teachers quit within five years—a figure that has been widely shared. That was always a rough estimate, and this new figure uses national longitudinal data and is more accurate, the report says.

The teaching profession has continued to grow far faster than the student population.

Since the recession, Ingersoll said, teacher hiring "has picked up with a vengeance."

"I see it as a ticking time bomb, just in terms of the affordability," he said.

Ingersoll cites such reasons behind the trend as reduced elementary class sizes; more special education, English-as-a-second-language, math, and science teachers; and more elementary enrichment specialists.

The teaching force is becoming more "green."

For a number of years, the most common age of a public school teacher increased, reaching 55 by 2007-08. Now, the most common age has decreased and spread out—from the mid-30s to the mid-40s.

"Not only have retirees been replaced with newcomers, but the flow of newcomers has become a flood," the report notes.

In 1987-88, the most common public school teacher had 15 years of teaching experience. In 2015-16, the most common public school teacher is in his or her first three years of teaching.

Teaching is becoming a more racially diverse profession, but retention is a problem.

While teaching is still predominately white, the percentage of all nonwhite public school teachers has increased from 12.5 percent in 1987-88 to 19.9 percent in 2015-16.

Still, the rate at which nonwhite teachers leave the profession is much higher than that of white teachers.

Even more of the teaching profession is female. Women represented more than 76 percent of the teaching force in 2015-16.

Vol. 38, Issue 11, Page 5

Published in Print: October 31, 2018, as Teaching Force Continues to Grow
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