Thursday, June 26, 2014

Seven Trends in the Teacher Work Force

In April, the Consortium for Policy Research in Education released a paper entitled "Seven Trends: the Transformation of the Teaching Force." What the title lacks in sass and flash it makes up for in accuracy, and although the most recent data are from 2012, it still makes for interesting reading. Let's look at the seven trends.


Between the late 80s and 2008, the teaching force grew, and grew far faster than the student population.What happened? CPRE notes a couple of interesting trends.

Private schools added staff far faster than they added students, and charter school growth has contributed to the total number of teaching jobs. CPRE rejects these as large factors because those types of schools are a small portion of the total teaching world. Class size reduction, particularly on the state legislative scale like California, led to an increase in number of teachers needed.

The other three big growth areas were special area elementary teachers, ESL teachers, and (a biggie) pre-K teachers. High school math and science saw large gains. And the likely biggest contributing area-- special education.

The paper notes that the information is not supportive for either end of the political spectrum. Liberals who posit that rehiring all the laid-off teachers from recent years overlook the ballooning of the field before the massive layoffs of the economic crash. Conservatives who like to cry "bureaucratic bloating" at larger staffs ignore that it's private schools that did the most bloating.


The teaching force is getting older, though the trend has just about played out. If you are stuck in old-school thinking, you might conclude that this has great financial implications as a bunch of old guys retiring will reduce school costs. But nowadays, old teachers are a monetary nightmare because, pensions.

As a side note, the paper's authors note that retirements only represent 14% of teacher outflow! Fourteen percent!! The big math/science teacher shortage issue is not retirements, and it's not (see previous point) supply either-- it's people who just get out rather than make a lifetime career out of it. The "put great teachers in front of every student crowd" might want to chew on that one for a while.


So one big bump on the experience chart comes at the high end-- the other is at the newbie end. This point has been addressed in more depth elsewhere, but the bottom line is that the most common teacher is an inexperienced one.

There are interesting pieces of sub-data. For instance, of those newbs, roughly a third are over twenty-nine years old.

Greening has several implications. Instructionally, it can have an impact because, despite the anti-tenure crowd's complaints, most studies that show any link show that experinec generally goes with better teaching. Industry has long known the problems that come with too much turnover and the loss of institutional memory; schools can suffer form the same issue of simply having too few people left in the building who know how things work.

Greening also has implications for pension funds-- good ones, actually, as the number of people paying in can help bolster the system. And since this crop of newbies are highly likely to quit the profession early on, a large number of them will end up basically making contributions to the pension fund that will never have to be paid back to them. So thanks for helping to pay off my retirement, non-teaching newby.

More Female

I'll admit this one caught me by surprise, and it shouldn't have. In my own district we had an elementary building that didn't have a single male adult working in it-- not from teachers through secretaries through custodians.

The total number of male teachers has actually grown. But the number of females has grown twice as fast. The authors use several paragraphs trying to guess why, but nobody really knows.  The implications are likewise unpredictable, though the guess that turning teaching back into "women's work" reducing the respect and clout of the profession seems like a good one, and amply reflected in mostly male, mostly white reformsters' disdain for the profession.

More Diverse by Race-Ethnicity

While teaching is still a predominantly white profession, minority teachers are entering the ranks at a far higher rate than white teachers. That's the good news. The bad news is that minority teachers are leaving teaching at a far greater rate than white teachers.

Consistent in Academic Ability

You know the issue. Do teachers really come from the bottom echelons of college grades or SAT scores? And more importantly, do academic achievements have anything to do with teaching awesomeness, anyway?

CPRE determined that, if we sort first-year teachers by selectivity of college, about a tenth come from the top, a fifth come from the bottom, and everybody else comes from the middle. That doesn't seem to be changing.

Less Stable

This has been implied by most of the other categories. Teaching has become steadily less stable, with both attrition and moving from school to school on the upswing, and especially more so for minority teachers.

These researchers, who include Ingersoll, creator of the infamous 50% attrition figure, have fine tuned that number to something like 41%, but they would like to point out that since the total number of teachers has increased, percentages do not capture the growing raw numbers of teachers fleeing the profession, most commonly in their beginning years. Reasons given for leaving?

     * School Staffing Action-- 20.8%
     * Family or persona- - 35.4%
     * Pursuing another job-- 38.9%
     * Dissatisfaction-- 45.3%

What do we know? That of all the topics brought up in discussions of teaching staffing, the biggest one that we don't address is retention.

When reformsters start talking about getting a great teacher in each classroom, what they should really be talking about is attracting and keeping them. It's all great to talk about getting highly effective teachers into problem schools-- but how will you convince them to go there, and how will you convince them to stay. Spoiler alert: making it clear that you can fire them easily is NOT the answer.


  1. I'd add an eighth: Colleges of education are STILL graduating way more teachers than there are jobs. I have found it nearly impossible even to score an interview here in Oregon.

    There needs to be a moratorium on admissions to teacher education programs at least until this glut of teachers has passed.

    It doesn't matter how poorly teachers are treated once they get a job or how many ditch it. There are still literally hundreds of people standing in line waiting for jobs, even in so-called "high needs" jobs like special ed.

    1. What college programs are the only ones really advertising? online and teacher education programs. Why is that? Why to colleges, at least here in Oregon, constantly advertise their MAT programs? I don't here any other field advertising.

  2. When I graduated in 1974, there was a teaching glut also. I subbed for a year and taught part-time for a year until I was offered a full-time position. I was laid off 8 years in a row because of (last-in-first-out)"declining enrollments," but hired back each fall (once on November). I never knew what I'd be teaching from year to year. During that time I was assigned to Pre-K, K, Science Prep, and 2nd grade. It was a steep learning curve, but by the time I landed where I finished out my 37 years I figured I could teach just about anything and I was right. Of course, the hubby had a full-time job that meant I could not worry too much about layoffs. With the current atmosphere, I think teacher prep schools should give all their candidates a realistic idea of the chances of getting a job BEFORE they sign up to be a teacher. That was done with us and many left the program before it hurt coursework for graduation.

  3. OTE, if you're not tied to the area, I'd look out of state. It's not like that everywhere.

  4. If 86% of teacher outflow is newbie's who decide teaching is not for them, how many of those are from the 1/5 of new hires that fall in the bottom of the class.

    Minorities going into teaching in greater numbers and leaving in greater numbers. I would think (though who would fund me to prove it) that it has something to do with closing public schools in favor of charters. The recent issues in Newark being an example.