Panel Paper: Do We Have a Teacher Shortage? Why Teachers Are Leaving Their Schools or the Profession and Why Teaching Careers Lost Their Appeal

Saturday, November 9, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Governor's Square 17 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Emma Garcia and Elaine Weiss, Economic Policy Institute

The past surge of studies examining teacher related issues—mainly their wages and living conditions—has now become a sustained stream of information on teacher labor markets, from researchers, media, and educators themselves. One of the measures of the dynamics of the labor market for teachers is the imbalance between the number of teachers needed in a given year, and the number of teachers available to be hired that year, or the shortage of teachers.

This study examines the trends, size, and the multiple factors behind the teacher shortage. The teacher shortage is a matter for concern because it harms students, teachers, and the public education system as a whole. Lack of sufficient, qualified teachers and staff instability threaten students’ ability to learn and reduce teachers’ effectiveness, and high teacher turnover consumes economic resources that could be better deployed elsewhere. The teacher shortage makes it more difficult to build a solid reputation for teaching and to professionalize it, which further contribute to perpetuating the shortage.

The findings of this research show that the teacher shortage is more acute than we had estimated when we factor in the credentials of teachers currently teaching (in addition to new teachers needed and available), and when we note its uneven spread across schools serving different shares of low-income students. The results show the characteristics of those who enter, who exit, and who stay in the teaching profession, and examine the reasons behind teachers staying in teaching, quitting the profession, or not pursuing a teaching career. The analysis pays specific attention to the roles that salaries, school climate, collegiality and support from the administration, satisfaction, early career supports and professional development opportunities play in retaining and attracting high-quality teachers.

Methods and data

The analyses are descriptive in nature. We use nationally representative data from the NCES (SASS 2011-12, TFS 2012-13, and TPS 2015-16), for public (noncharter) schools and teachers in K-12 grades.