Special Report
Recruitment & Retention From Our Research Center

Teacher Recruitment and Retention: It’s Complicated

By Debra Viadero — January 23, 2018 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

At a broad national level, statistics tell us there is no teacher shortage. In fact, the number of U.S. teachers has grown by 13 percent in four years, far outpacing the 2 percent rise in student enrollment during the same period.

But that doesn’t mean teacher shortages aren’t real.

In certain states and districts, and in particular specialties like special education or foreign languages, teacher shortages are a recurring fact of life. An Education Week analysis of federal data finds that all 50 states and most territories reported experiencing statewide shortages in one teaching area or another for either the 2016-17 school year, the current one, or both. Besides special education and foreign languages, frequent problem areas included math, computer science, science, English/language arts, and English-as-a-second-language instruction.

But districts also struggle to find teachers who reflect the entirety of their student bodies—males and African-American and Latino teachers are in particularly short supply.

Rural districts are also perennially hard to keep fully staffed, though the problem is more acute in the remotest of rural districts than it is in those that are closer to cities.

As Dan Goldhaber, the director of the Center for Education Data and Research at the University of Washington, told Education Week last year, “it’s not the case that we have a nationwide teacher shortage. It is the case that we have a shortage in particular schools and school systems. So if we try to apply a generic solution to what is a nuanced problem, we’re not very likely to move the needle very much.”

So what should districts do to better recruit teachers in the face of such complexity? The simplest answer, of course, might be to pay teachers more. U.S. teachers make less than 60 cents for every dollar paid to people with the same level of education in other professions, according to a 2017 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That ratio puts the United States at the bottom of the more than two dozen industrialized nations in the study.

Short of offering top-dollar salaries, a handful of districts are experimenting with perks designed to appeal to teachers’ wallets. The Niles Township district in Skokie, Ill., for example, built day-care centers for its employees. And, in California’s Santa Clara Unified District, teachers are on a waiting list to get into one of the 70 townhouse units at Casa del Maestro. The below-market-rate units are available to district employees for up to seven years.

Across the country, in Guilford County, N.C., the school system has responded to a nagging shortage of teachers for science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, classes by creating its own licensure program—the first district in the state to do so. The new certification pathway allows the district to recruit professionals or graduate students steeped in those disciplines and train and mentor them to work in Guilford County schools.

And what keeps teachers around once they’re hired? An Education Week survey of a nationally representative group of 500 teachers suggests that leadership may be even more important than salary in keeping teachers on the job. Eighteen percent of respondents saw leadership as a key factor in any decision about whether to go or stay on the job, while 17 percent cited salary considerations. School climate was also named by 17 percent of teacher-respondents.

Leadership support may be especially important for special educators, who arguably have the highest turnover rate. Conventional wisdom often suggests that challenging students, prickly parents, and crushing paperwork drive that attrition. But special educators also complain about a lack of support from principals, difficulty balancing competing priorities from various supervisors, and ignorance (and sometimes disrespect) about what they do from peers, among other factors.

In the end, what special educators want to spend their time doing is the same as what all teachers want to be doing: teaching children. The cross-cutting theme in this report may be that anything school leaders and districts can do to enable teachers to focus on teaching—rather than finding child care or getting principal support—is time well spent.

Data Specialist/Staff Writer Francisco Vara-Orta and the Education Week Research Center contributed to this report.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Boost Student Mental Health and Motivation With Data-Driven SEL
Improve student well-being and motivation with a personalized, data-driven SEL program.
Content provided by EmpowerU Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School Climate & Safety Webinar
Praise for Improvement: Supporting Student Behavior through Positive Feedback and Interventions
Discover how PBIS teams and educators use evidence-based practices for student success.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Management Webinar
Build a Digitally Responsive Educational Organization for Effective Digital-Age Learning
Chart a guided pathway to digital agility and build support for your organization’s mission and vision through dialogue and collaboration.
Content provided by Bluum

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Recruitment & Retention The Pool of Future Teachers Is Dwindling. Can It Be Refilled?
A look at Oklahoma's efforts to replenish its teacher pipeline.
5 min read
Illustration of empty teacher desk.
Nadezhda Deineka/Getty
Recruitment & Retention Why Aren't There More Women Superintendents?
As turnover rises, researchers say slow progress towards gender parity in the top job is at risk.
10 min read
Photo of job applicants waiting outside office
fizkes/Getty
Recruitment & Retention Teachers Are Quitting Midyear. It's Leaving Some Schools in the Lurch
Pandemic-related burnout may be driving higher numbers of teachers to resign in the middle of the school year.
5 min read
image of business woman
iStock/Getty
Recruitment & Retention Can Cushy Perks Keep Superintendents From Quitting?
Recent contracts aim to keep big-city superintendents with provisions like eye-popping salaries, sabbaticals, and retirement contributions.
7 min read
Photo of whiteboard
tumsasedgars/Getty