Recruitment & Retention What the Research Says

The New School Staffing Landscape, in Charts

By Sarah D. Sparks — October 17, 2023 2 min read
Illustration of man and african american woman using binoculars and sitting on a search bar from internet.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

More than 8 in 10 public schools continue to face vacancies in teachers as well as support staff like aides, bus drivers, and mental health professionals—but fewer administrators started this school year feeling short-staffed than last year.

New data from the School Pulse Panel, a nationally representative survey conducted this summer and released Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics, finds 45 percent of school administrators reported feeling understaffed before the start of the 2023-24 school year, down from 53 percent last year.

At the same time, the share of districts still trying to fill positions in key subjects remains the same this year compared to last.

“Although we see a somewhat smaller share of public schools starting the new academic year feeling understaffed, the data indicate the majority of public schools are experiencing staffing challenges at the same levels they did last school year,” says Peggy Carr, the NCES commissioner, in a statement on the data.

New vacancies may be a good sign in some districts, said Paul Bruno, an assistant professor of education policy, organization, and leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who studies staffing trends. In a separate analysis of Illinois school staffing, Bruno found higher vacancy rates among districts that received more federal pandemic recovery grants, suggesting that they may be creating new teaching positions rather than trying to replace teachers who left or retired.

For example, the share of schools offering wraparound services or community schools has jumped from 45 percent to 60 percent in the last year, according to the School Pulse Panel data. More than a third of schools surveyed are now offering tutoring and mentoring, social services, and dental services. However, many instructional support staff have been hired using the $180 billion that Congress allotted to schools in three rounds of pandemic relief aid. Schools have less than a year to spend the remainder of that aid, so they will have to find other ways to support those new staff in order to keep them.

In addition, administrators successfully hired more instructional specialists this year than last.

More administrators this year reported they had an easy time hiring teachers in core subjects like math, English/language arts, social studies, physical education, and elementary education. But the majority of schools found hiring difficult in every subject except social studies and P.E. More than 3 in 4 administrators said they had difficulty hiring teachers for physical sciences, foreign languages, and special education in 2023-24.

Seven in 10 administrators said they simply got too few candidates, particularly for hard-to-fill subjects like special education. Nearly that many reported the candidates who did apply weren’t qualified. That pattern suggests that efforts to lower the certification requirements for teachers in California and 11 other states might have increased the number of teachers generally, but may not boost the pipeline for teachers in specialized subjects.

In Illinois, Bruno found 40 percent of the difference in staffing appeared between schools within the same district.

“Administrators understand that some of their schools are harder for them to staff than others,” Bruno said. “For an individual district, it’s often very hard to differentiate your policies for different schools. Bargaining centrally for things like different levels of compensation at different schools is both logistically harder and politically much more sensitive.”

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
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
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 Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools

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 Signing Ceremonies Honor Students Who Want to Be Teachers
In a growing number of schools across the country, student-athletes aren't the only ones in the spotlight. Future teachers are, too.
7 min read
The advisers of Baldwin County High School’s chapter of Future Teachers of Alabama pose with the seniors who are committed to a career in education in April 2024. From left to right, they are: Chantelle McPherson, Diona Davis, Molly Caruthers, Jameia Brooks, Whitney Jernigan, Derriana Bishop, Vickie Locke, and Misty Byrd.
The advisers of Baldwin County High School’s chapter of Future Teachers of Alabama pose with seniors who are committed to a career in education in April 2024. From left to right: Chantelle McPherson, Diona Davis, Molly Caruthers, Jameia Brooks, Whitney Jernigan, Derriana Bishop, Vickie Locke, and Misty Byrd.
Courtesy of Baldwin County High School
Recruitment & Retention Why Your Next Teacher Job Fair Probably Won't Be Virtual
Post-pandemic, K-12 job fairs have largely pivoted to in-person events. But virtual fairs still have a place.
4 min read
Facility and prospective applicants gather at William Penn School District's teachers job fair in Lansdowne, Pa., Wednesday, May 3, 2023. As schools across the country struggle to find teachers to hire, more governors are pushing for pay increases and bonuses for the beleaguered profession.
Facility and prospective applicants gather at William Penn School District's in-person teachers job fair in Lansdowne, Pa., Wednesday, May 3, 2023.
Matt Rourke/AP
Recruitment & Retention How Effective Mentors Strengthen Teacher Recruitment and Retention
Rudy Ruiz, founder of the Edifying Teachers network, shares advice on what quality mentorship entails for teachers of color.
3 min read
A teacher helps students during a coding lesson at Sutton Middle School in Atlanta on Feb. 12, 2020.
A teacher helps students during a coding lesson at Sutton Middle School in Atlanta on Feb. 12, 2020.
Allison Shelley/EDUimages
Recruitment & Retention What the Research Says Some Positive Signs for the Teacher Pipeline, But It's Not All Good. What 3 Studies Say
Teacher-prep enrollment is stabilizing, but school-level turnover is still high.
8 min read
A classroom at Penn Wood High School in Lansdowne, Pa., sits empty on May 3, 2023. Teachers in the state left their jobs at an accelerating rate, according to an analysis that found attrition in Pennsylvania doubled in the 2022-23 school year. New studies paint a complex picture of the national pipeline.
A classroom at Penn Wood High School in Lansdowne, Pa., sits empty on May 3, 2023. Teachers in the state left their jobs at an accelerating rate, according to an analysis that found attrition in Pennsylvania doubled in the 2022-23 school year. New studies paint a complex picture of the national pipeline.
Matt Rourke/AP