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Raising public school teacher pay: What the research says
While bigger paychecks don’t guarantee greater job satisfaction, academic studies indicate that when teacher earnings rise, school districts and students can benefit in a range of ways.
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by Denise-Marie Ordway, The Journalist's Resource January 2, 2020
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In the lead-up to the 2020 elections, the Journalist’s Resource team is combing through the Democratic presidential candidates’ platforms and reporting what the research says about their policy proposals. We want to encourage deep coverage of these proposals — and do our part to help deter horse race journalism , which research suggests can lead to inaccurate reporting and an uninformed electorate. We’re focusing on proposals that have a reasonable chance of becoming policy, and for us that means at least 3 of the 5 top-polling candidates say they intend to tackle the issue. Here we look at what the research says about the benefits and limitations of increasing public school teacher pay.
Candidates favoring higher teacher pay
Michael Bennet *, Joe Biden , Cory Booker *, Pete Buttigieg *, Amy Klobuchar *, Bernie Sanders *, Elizabeth Warren *, Andrew Yang *
What the research says
While bigger paychecks don’t guarantee greater job satisfaction, academic studies indicate that when teacher earnings rise, public school districts and students can benefit in a range of ways. The impact seems to vary, however, according to the structure and implementation of school districts’ pay systems.
Research conducted in recent years in various parts of the country and world has helped clarify the role of teacher pay. Many of these studies have found that increased pay — whether through salary hikes, one-time bonuses, college debt-forgiveness programs or other new forms of compensation — is associated with:
- Improved teacher retention.
- Gains in student performance.
- A larger percentage of high-achieving college students taking courses in education.
- An increased likelihood of hiring teachers who earned top scores on their educator certification exams.
In 2018 and 2019, frustrated teachers in multiple states held walkouts and protests over the controversial issue of teacher pay. School districts generally pay their teachers based on longevity and education level — a system that has long drawn criticism from those who say it’s unfair to pay top-performing teachers the same salary as mediocre teachers who’ve been in the field the same amount of time and have the same type of college degree.
Attempts to differentiate pay with performance-based incentives, however, have met strong opposition from teacher union leaders, who often argue that there’s no definition of a “good” teacher and that it’s unfair to pay teachers based on student achievement because many factors outside the classroom influence learning, including children’s health and home environments. In 2019, Denver teachers were on the brink of striking for the first time in 25 years to fight the district’s performance-pay program, which offers teachers additional money for meeting goals such as completing a training course and demonstrating students have made gains in learning core academic subjects.
As policymakers and elected officials have debated the best way to compensate educators, who often use their own money to buy things they need for the classroom, average teaching salaries have fallen. When adjusted for inflation, full-time, public school teachers earned an average of $58,950 annually during the 2016-17 academic year, the most recent year for which data was available from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). That’s down from a national average of $61,804 in 2009-10 and $59,426 in 2015-16 .
Average earnings for full-time teachers vary considerably from state to state, and even within states. Salaries are lowest in Mississippi, where educators made $42,925 in 2016-17 , on average. New York paid the highest average salary — $79,637 , NCES data show.
But comparing salaries by state doesn’t allow for an accurate comparison of how well teachers’ take-home pay covers their basic living expenses. Cost of living also can differ drastically from place to place. In some parts of the United States, experienced teachers are able to live within their means while in other areas, they work side jobs or commute long distances to make ends meet, a USA TODAY analysis in June 2019 determined. There are few metro areas where an entry-level teacher can afford the median rent, the news outlet reported.
Starting salaries fell below $40,000 in about 70% of the states during the 2017-18 academic year, according to the National Education Association, one of the largest teacher unions. The national average for first-year teachers: $39,249.
When comparing teacher pay across states, a team of researchers at Oklahoma State University found that differences narrowed once they adjusted salaries to take into account such things as cost of living, tax rates and teachers’ personal characteristics, including age, race and marital status. To better understand teacher pay and put it into context, it’s important to compare it against the earnings of other college-educated professionals in the same state, the researchers explain in a paper published recently in the Public Finance Review .
“The most meaningful comparison is that between the federal tax-adjusted pay of public school teachers and college-educated nonteachers,” they write, adding that state officials should monitor differences between these two employee groups over time.
Over the past year and a half, several national polls have found that a majority of the public thinks teachers are not paid what they’re worth. Nearly 60% of Americans who participated in a USA TODAY /Ipsos poll in August 2018 said teachers are not compensated fairly. An Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of NPR in April 2018 found that 1 in 4 Americans think teachers are paid fairly.
Meanwhile, a survey administered for Education Next magazine suggests Americans who have up-to-date information about how much their local teachers make are much less likely to support a higher salary.
In May 2019, a nationally representative sample of 3,046 adults answered a series of questions about education topics, including whether teacher salaries should increase, decrease or stay the same. When survey participants were informed of the average annual teacher salary in their state before they were asked whether teacher salaries should change, 56% said pay should rise. When adults were asked whether salaries should change, without being provided any salary information, 72% supported a raise, the survey found.
“The higher level of endorsement for boosting teacher salaries among the ‘uninformed’ respondents reflects the fact that most Americans believe that teachers are underpaid and earn far less than they actually do,” four researchers write in Education Next’s Winter 2020 edition. “When asked to estimate average teacher salaries in their state, respondents’ average guess came in at $41,987 — 30% less than the actual average of $59,581 among our sample of educators.”
Early studies of teacher pay attempted to gauge whether and how student achievement was impacted by teacher salaries and school spending more broadly. More than 30 years ago, researchers examined dozens of studies on the relationship between school expenditures and student performance but found conflicting results. They decided to analyze the data collected from 45 individual studies and synthesize the findings to determine whether the amount of money spent on education influences student test scores.
The resulting analysis , published in the Journal of Education Finance in 1986, indicates the relationship between student achievement and educational expenditures “is minimal, with the expenditures which relate directly to instruction, such as teacher salary and instructional supplies, having the most positive relationship to student achievement.”
A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research , released in 1999, examines teacher pay in Texas in the early and mid-1990s and concludes that the relationship between salaries and student test scores is complicated and nuanced. When scholars restricted their sample of students to those who do not switch schools, higher salaries seemed to be linked to improvements in children’s math and reading scores. The research team found the strongest effects of salary in a limited number of schools that had no teacher turnover and no teachers with two or fewer years of work experience.
The study also finds that teacher mobility, teachers moving from job to job, is more strongly impacted by the characteristics of the student body — for example, students’ academic ability and demographics — than by salaries.
In the paper, the authors call the results “perplexing,” but explain that, overall, their analysis suggests that “as currently employed, salary policies do not appear to offer much promise for improvement in student performance.”
A study published in The Review of Economics and Statistics in 2000 finds that boosting teacher wages reduces high school dropout rates. That paper focuses on national school data collected from 1969 to 1989. After adjusting for labor market factors, the researchers estimate that boosting teacher pay 10% lowers dropout rates by 3% to 4%.
The researchers note that they were able to detect changes in student achievement tied to teacher pay by analyzing changes over time. “The magnitude of the estimated effects is quite a bit larger for 1989 than for the earlier years,” they write. “Most previous studies of teacher wage effects have used data from the 1970s and early 1980s, however, and our results for those years are consistent with the failure of earlier research to find robust evidence that teacher wages matter.”
While earlier studies provide mixed results, those conducted in more recent years help clarify the role teacher compensation plays on public school campuses.
A 2010 working paper from the National Center for the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research , a joint effort of the American Institutes for Research and scholars at multiple universities, sheds light on how schools can leverage higher salaries to attract teachers with the strongest qualifications. The study examines data from North Carolina public schools between 1995 and 2004 and finds that offering better pay improves a school’s chance of hiring teachers who earned high scores on their teacher certification exams.
A paper published in 2012 in the Economics of Education Review also suggests higher teacher pay draws stronger job candidates. The researcher looked at the test scores of individuals entering teacher education courses in Australia over a span of 15 years. He matched scores from college-entrance exams with data on teacher salaries to gauge how changes in pay affect the quality of students entering the education field.
The study finds that college students with higher test scores take teacher education courses when average teacher pay increases. “The relationship between average pay and teacher aptitude is positive and significant: a 1 percent rise in teacher pay (relative to other occupations requiring a college degree) is associated with approximately a 0.6 point rise in the average percentile rank of potential teachers,” the author writes.
Also in 2012, a case study of teacher pay raises and teacher retention in San Francisco from 2002-03 through 2010-11 was released. The study finds that public school teachers were more likely to remain in their jobs after their salaries rose. However, the author also concluded that the change was most likely the result of an economic downturn that occurred at the same time.
A researcher who looked at teacher pay and retention in Texas around the same time found different results. That paper , published in the Journal of Public Economics in 2014, analyzes teacher and student data for a whole state over a longer period — 1996 to 2012. A key takeaway: An increase in base teacher pay reduces teacher turnover, a “pay effect [that] is largest for less experienced teachers, decreases with experience, and disappears once a teacher reaches about 19 years of experience,” the author writes.
A larger study involving dozens of countries , including the U.S., attempted to more clearly demonstrate the connection between teacher ability and student achievement and between teacher ability and salary. The study, which appeared in the Fall 2019 edition of the Journal of Human Resources , relies on data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an association of countries that assess reading and math ability among both adults and youth.
The researchers collected data from the OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies to quantify differences in teacher skills in numeracy and literacy across 31 countries. They used that information along with student scores on the math and reading sections of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to estimate the relationship between teacher cognitive skills and student achievement.
The authors explain that teacher cognitive skills and student achievement levels differ substantially across countries. But their analyses show that student test scores are higher in countries where teachers have more advanced skills.
The authors note that country-by-country differences in student PISA scores could be narrowed if countries with lower student scores had a larger share of high-skill teachers. “Our results suggest that the dispersion in average PISA scores across our 31 country sample would be reduced by roughly one-quarter if each country brought its average teacher skills up to the average in Finland, the country with the highest measured skills of teachers,” they write.
When the researchers investigated the reasons some countries have a larger share of teachers with strong math and reading skills, they found that teacher pay is a primary factor. “We find that cross-country differences in women’s access to high-skill occupations and in wage premiums paid to teachers (given their gender, work experience, and cognitive skills) are directly related to teacher cognitive skills in a country,” they write. “The estimated wage differentials for teachers are directly correlated with student outcomes across our sample countries.”
Offering teachers bonuses and other financial incentives also is associated with improved student outcomes, studies show. A 2017 review of the existing research on teacher merit pay programs finds that when teachers have participated in these programs, their students saw modest gains in test scores. That report, from scholars at the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University, provides a systematic analysis of 44 studies published or released between 1989 and 2016 on the impact of giving teachers additional pay for achieving certain goals.
In the studies reviewed, some of which were conducted outside the U.S., merit pay came in the form of one-time bonuses, gifts and permanent salary increases ranging from $26 to $20,000.
“In substantive terms, the effect is roughly equivalent to 4.5 additional weeks of learning,” write the authors, who also note that effects differ according to a program’s design and implementation. “Our evidence, for example, suggests that group incentives result in larger positive effects on average than incentives given to individuals.”
In late 2018, the Economics of Education Review published a study that failed to find a link between student achievement and a financial bonus offered to Washington teachers who had earned certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and agreed to work in high-poverty schools.
In Washington, all teachers with National Board certification — an honor reserved for the most accomplished educators — receive a financial bonus. At the time of this study, they also got another $5,000 a year if they took positions at schools with a high percentage of students who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.
The additional $5,000 helped boost teacher quality at these campuses. When the bonus was implemented in 2007, 2% of teachers working in high-poverty schools were National Board certified. By 2013, 11.3% were.
While the researchers’ analysis shows that the bonus was associated with a slight rise in student math scores and a slight dip in reading scores per year, those results were not statistically significant.
Another study published in late 2018 investigates whether short-term bonuses and college loan forgiveness programs encouraged Florida teachers to take and remain in jobs that school administrators had difficulty filling. Among the study’s key takeaways: Both seem to curb teacher attrition in difficult-to-staff areas such as special education and high school science. However, direct payments appear to be more cost effective that loan subsidies, the authors note in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management .
“We find that relatively modest payments of $500 to $1,000 per year can reduce attrition in some high-need subjects, although in some subjects, such as special education, only payments on the order of $2,500 per year appear effective,” they explain. “A one-time bonus of $1,200 reduced teacher attrition more than loan repayments of comparable magnitude.”
A working paper the National Bureau of Economic Research released in 2019 offers new evidence that school districts will raise salaries for their most effective teachers when they no longer need to negotiate with local teacher unions — and those teachers, in turn, will increase their efforts in the classroom. For this study, the researcher determined teachers’ effectiveness based on changes in their students’ test scores.
The paper focuses on how school districts in Wisconsin responded after a landmark state law known as Act 10 took effect in 2011, limiting the influence of teacher unions and allowing districts to make major changes to their pay schedules. The author studied districts through 2015, after many had adopted “flexible pay” schedules, which allowed them to pay teachers based on their performance, and abandoned “seniority pay” schedules, which have been favored by teacher unions and compensate teachers based mostly on their years of experience.
The author learned that in a subset of Wisconsin districts, high-quality teachers left districts that maintained seniority pay to work in districts that began to use a flexible pay system. Lower-quality teachers, on the other hand, either moved to districts that kept the old salary structure or left public schools altogether. “As a result, the composition of the teaching workforce improved in FP [flexible pay] districts compared with SP [seniority pay] districts,” she writes.
In addition, the author found a moderate increase in student test scores in districts that implemented flexible pay systems — an indication, she writes, that teachers began to put forth more effort.
A Meta-Analysis of Research on the Relationship Between Educational Expenditures and Student Achievement T. Stephen Childs and Charol Shakeshaft. Journal of Education Finance , 1986.
The gist: The relationship between student achievement and educational expenditures “is minimal, with the expenditures which relate directly to instruction, such as teacher salary and instructional supplies, having the most positive relationship to student achievement.”
Do Higher Salaries Buy Better Teachers? Eric A. Hanushek, John F. Kain and Steven G. Rivkin. Working paper from the National Bureau for Economic Research, 1999.
The gist: “In analyses both of teacher mobility and of student performance, teacher salaries are shown to have a modest impact. Teacher mobility is more affected by characteristics of the students (income, race, and achievement) than by salary schedules.”
Examining the Link between Teacher Wages and Student Outcomes: The Importance of Alternative Labor Market Opportunities and Non-Pecuniary Variation Susanna Loeb and Marianne E. Page. Review of Economics and Statistics , 2000.
The gist: “Once we adjust for labor market factors, we estimate that raising teacher wages by 10% reduces high school dropout rates by 3% to 4%.”
Teacher Mobility, School Segregation, and Pay-Based Policies to Level the Playing Field Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen F. Ladd and Jacob L. Vigdor. Report from the National Center for the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, 2010.
The gist: “Teachers with stronger qualifications are both more responsive to the racial and socioeconomic mix of a school’s students and less responsive to salary than are their less well qualified counterparts when making decisions about remaining in their current school, moving to another school or district, or leaving the teaching profession.”
Teacher Pay and Teacher Aptitude Andrew Leigh. Economics of Education Review , 2012.
The gist: “A 1 percent rise in the salary of a starting teacher boosts the average aptitude of students entering teacher education courses by 0.6 percentile ranks, with the effect being strongest for those at the median.”
Salary Incentives and Teacher Quality: The Effect of a District-Level Salary Increase on Teacher Retention Heather J. Hough. Case study, 2012.
The gist: “Studying a policy in the San Francisco Unified School District, the author investigates whether teacher retention increased for those teachers targeted by salary increases. The author shows that teacher retention did increase in the time period, but that increases are most likely due to the economic downturn that occurred simultaneously.”
Does It Pay to Pay Teachers More? Evidence from Texas Matthew D. Hendricks. Journal of Public Economics , 2014.
The gist: “I show that paying teachers more improves student achievement through higher retention rates. The results also suggest that adopting a flat salary schedule may be a cheap way to improve student performance. I find no evidence that pay effects vary by the teacher’s gender or subject taught.”
Teacher Merit Pay and Student Test Scores: A Meta-Analysis L.D. Pham, T.D. Nguyen and M.G. Springer. Report from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, 2017.
The gist: “Overall, we find a modest, statistically significant positive association … between teacher merit pay programs and student test scores. In substantive terms, the effect is roughly equivalent to 4.5 additional weeks of learning.”
Do Bonuses Affect Teacher Staffing and Student Achievement in High Poverty Schools? Evidence From an Incentive for National Board Certified Teachers in Washington State James Cowan and Dan Goldhaber. Economics of Education Review , 2018.
The gist: “We study a teacher incentive policy in Washington State that awards a financial bonus to National Board certified teachers in high poverty schools … The policy increased the proportion of board certified teachers through improved hiring, increased certification rates, and reduced turnover.”
The Impact of Incentives to Recruit and Retain Teachers in “Hard‐to‐Staff” Subjects Li Feng and Tim R. Sass. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management , 2018.
The gist: “Our findings suggest that educational subsidies, particularly ex-post loan forgive-ness for early-career teachers, can be effective tools in promoting the retention of teachers in high-need areas.”
The Value of Smarter Teachers: International Evidence on Teacher Cognitive Skills and Student Performance Eric A. Hanushek, Marc Piopiunik and Simon Wiederhold. The Journal of Human Resources , 2018.
The gist: “We find substantial differences in teacher cognitive skills across countries that are strongly related to student performance … Observed country variations in teacher cognitive skills are significantly related to differences in women’s access to high-skill occupations outside teaching and to salary premiums for teachers.”
Adjusting State Public School Teacher Salaries for Interstate Comparison Dan S. Rickman, Hongbo Wang and John V. Winters. Public Finance Review , 2019.
The gist: “This is the first study to show and test that teacher salary comparisons across states should be based on a comparison of public school teacher salaries with nonteacher college graduates in the states, adjusted for differences in personal characteristics and effective federal tax rates.”
The Labor Market for Teachers Under Different Pay Schemes Barbara Biasi. Working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, 2019.
The gist: “A switch away from seniority pay toward flexible pay in a subset of Wisconsin districts, following the interruption of CB [collaborative bargaining] on teachers’ salary schedules mandated by Act 10 of 2011, resulted in high-quality teachers moving to FP [flexible pay] districts and low-quality teachers either moving to SP [seniority pay] districts or leaving the public school system altogether.”
Barbara Biasi , assistant professor of economics, Yale School of Management.
James Cowan , researcher, Center for the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research at the American Institutes for Research.
Li Feng , Brandon Dee Roberts Excellence Assistant Professor of Economics, Texas State University.
Dan Goldhaber , director, Center for the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research at the American Institutes for Research and the Center for Education Data & Research at the University of Washington.
Eric Hanushek , Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution of Stanford University.
Matthew D. Hendricks , associate professor of economics, University of Tulsa.
Marc Piopiunik , postdoctoral researcher, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.
Dan Rickman , Regents Professor of Economics, Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University.
Tim R. Sass , Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Economics, Georgia State University.
Matthew G. Springer , Robena and Walter E. Hussman Jr. Distinguished Professor of Education Reform, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Hongbo Wang , lecturer in economics, Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University.
Simon Wiederhold , professor of macroeconomics, Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstad.
John V. Winters , associate professor of economics, Iowa State University.
*Dropped out of race since publication date.
Need more help covering teacher salary issues? Check out our tip sheet on covering teacher unions and our collection of research on how teacher unions affect school district spending and student achievement.
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Is teacher pay adequate: teachers' opinions on their expectations, requirements, and pay in columbia, sc.
Presley Garrard , University of South Carolina - Columbia Follow
Date of Award
Degree type, director of thesis.
Dr. Kara Brown
Dr. Jeffrey Eargle
The notion of raising teacher pay has been a topic for discussion in the past decades. There are many reasons to raise teacher pay. This paper discusses expectations, requirements, and the professionalism of teachers as being some of the reasons for increasing teacher pay by analyzing peer-reviewed articles and journals. There is an argument that teacher pay does not need to be raised and this argument is acknowledged. In addressing teacher pay, primary research sought teachers’ opinions on the demands and expectations of their job and their pay as an accurate reflection of such demands and expectations. This data was collected from a survey sent to secondary public school teachers in Lexington-Richland District 5 in April 2022. The results from the survey are then analyzed and discussed in this paper. Following the discussion of the results, two policy recommendations are given regarding teacher pay.
The survey conducted was not endorsed or funded by Lexington-Richland District 5.
Garrard, Presley, "Is Teacher Pay Adequate: Teachers' Opinions on Their Expectations, Requirements, and Pay in Columbia, SC" (2022). Senior Theses . 572. https://scholarcommons.sc.edu/senior_theses/572
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The teacher shortage is real, large and growing, and worse than we thought : The first report in ‘The Perfect Storm in the Teacher Labor Market’ series
Report • By Emma García and Elaine Weiss • March 26, 2019
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What this report finds: The teacher shortage is real, large and growing, and worse than we thought. When indicators of teacher quality (certification, relevant training, experience, etc.) are taken into account, the shortage is even more acute than currently estimated, with high-poverty schools suffering the most from the shortage of credentialed teachers.
Why it matters: A shortage of teachers 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 contributes to perpetuating the shortage. In addition, the fact that the shortage is distributed so unevenly among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds challenges the U.S. education system’s goal of providing a sound education equitably to all children.
What we can do about it: Tackle the working conditions and other factors that are prompting teachers to quit and dissuading people from entering the profession, thus making it harder for school districts to retain and attract highly qualified teachers: low pay, a challenging school environment, and weak professional development support and recognition. In addition to tackling these factors for all schools, we must provide extra supports and funding to high-poverty schools, where teacher shortages are even more of a problem.
Update, October 2019: The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has announced that weights developed for the teacher data in the 2015–2016 National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) were improperly inflated and that new weights will be released (release date to be determined). According to the NCES, counts produced using the original weights would be overestimates. The application of the final weights, when they are available, is not likely to change the estimates of percentages and averages (such as those we report in our analyses) in a statistically significant way. EPI will update the analyses in the series once the new weights are published but does not expect any data revisions to change the key themes described in the series. Please note that EPI analyses produced with 2011–2012 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) data, 2012–2013 Teacher Follow-Up Survey (TFS) data, and 2015–2016 NTPS school-level data are unaffected by NCES’s reexamination.
The teacher shortage is real and has serious consequences
In recent years, education researchers and journalists who cover education have called attention to the growing teacher shortage in the nation’s K–12 schools. They cite a variety of indicators of the shortage, including state-by-state subject area vacancies, personal testimonials and data from state and school district officials, and declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs. 1 These indicators are critical signals. They help analysts detect when there are not enough qualified teachers to fill staffing needs in a labor market that does not operate like other labor markets. School teachers’ wages are not subject to market pressures—they are set by school districts through contracts that take time to negotiate. Therefore, economists can’t use trends in wages—sudden or sustained wage increases—to establish that there is a labor market shortage (as the textbook explanation would indicate). It is also hard to produce direct measurements of the number of teachers needed and available (i.e., “missing”).
To date, the only direct estimate of the size of the teacher shortage nationally comes from the Learning Policy Institute’s seminal 2016 report, A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S. (Sutcher, Darling-Hammond, and Carver-Thomas 2016). The report noted that many school districts—finally hiring again after years of teacher layoffs during the Great Recession and in its wake—“had serious difficulty finding qualified teachers for their positions.” As the authors noted, school districts were challenged with not only restoring student-to-teacher ratios to pre-crisis levels but also with broadening curriculum offerings and meeting projected increases in student populations. Defining shortages as “the inability to staff vacancies at current wages with individuals qualified to teach in the fields needed,” the authors estimated that, barring any major changes, the annual teacher shortage would reach about 110,000 by the 2017–2018 school year.
Figure A replicates Figure 1 in their report and shows the gap between the supply of teachers available to enter the classroom in a given year and the demand for new hires. As recently as the 2011–2012 school year, the estimated supply of teachers available to be hired exceeded the demand for them—i.e., there was a surplus of teachers in that year’s labor market. But estimated projected demand soon exceeded the estimated supply and the projected gap grew sharply in just a handful of years—from around 20,000 in 2012–2013, to 64,000 teachers in the 2015–16 school year, to over 110,000 in 2017–2018. In other words, the shortage of teachers was projected to more than quadruple in just five years and the gap to remain at those 2017–2018 levels thereafter.
Teacher shortage as estimated by Sutcher, Darling-Hammond, and Carver-Thomas : Projected teacher supply and demand for new teachers, 2003–2004 through 2024–2025 school years
Note: The supply line represents the midpoints of upper- and lower-bound teacher supply estimates. Years on the horizontal axis represent the latter annual year in the school year.
Source: Recreated with permission from Figure 1 in Leib Sutcher, Linda Darling-Hammond, and Desiree Carver-Thomas, A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S. , Learning Policy Institute, September 2016. See the report for full analysis of the shortage and for the methodology.
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The teacher shortage has serious consequences. A lack of sufficient, qualified teachers threatens students’ ability to learn (Darling-Hammond 1999; Ladd and Sorensen 2016). Instability in a school’s teacher workforce (i.e., high turnover and/or high attrition) negatively affects student achievement and diminishes teacher effectiveness and quality (Ronfeldt, Loeb, and Wyckoff 2013; Jackson and Bruegmann 2009; Kraft and Papay 2014; Sorensen and Ladd 2018). And high teacher turnover consumes economic resources (i.e., through costs of recruiting and training new teachers) that could be better deployed elsewhere. Filling a vacancy costs $21,000 on average (Carver-Thomas and Darling-Hammond 2017; Learning Policy Institute 2017) and Carroll (2007) estimated that the total annual cost of turnover was $7.3 billion per year, a cost that would exceed $8 billion at present. 2 The teacher shortage also makes it more difficult to build a solid reputation for teaching and to professionalize it, further perpetuating the shortage.
We argue that, when issues such as teacher quality and the unequal distribution of highly qualified teachers across schools serving different concentrations of low-income students are taken into consideration, the teacher shortage problem is much more severe than previously recognized.
The teacher shortage is even larger when teaching credentials are factored in
The current national estimates of the teacher shortage likely understate the magnitude of the problem because the estimates consider the new qualified teachers needed to meet new demand. However, not all current teachers meet the education, experience, and certification requirements associated with being a highly qualified teacher.
We examine the U.S. Department of Education’s National Teacher and Principal Survey data from 2015–2016 to show, in Figure B , for all public noncharter schools, the share of teachers in the 2015–2016 school year who do and who do not hold teaching credentials associated with more effective teaching (see, for example, Darling-Hammond 1999; Kini and Podolsky 2016; Ladd and Sorensen 2016). 3 These credentials include being fully certified (they have a regular standard state certificate or advanced professional certificate), they participated in a traditional certification program (versus an alternative certification program), they have more than five years of experience, and they have educational background in the subject of the main assignment. These credentials also align with the federal definition of a “highly qualified” teacher, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Educator Equity Profiles. 4
Figure C shows how the share of teachers without each of the quality credentials has grown since the 2011–2012 school year (building on the Department of Education’s Schools and Staffing Survey data from 2011–2012). The shares of teachers not holding these credentials are not negligible.
Teacher credentials : Share of teachers with and without various credentials, by credential, 2015–2016
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The data underlying the figure.
Notes: Data are for teachers in public noncharter schools. According to research and to the U.S. Department of Education, highly qualified teachers have the following four credentials: They are fully certified (with a regular, standard state certificate or advanced professional certificate versus not having completed all the steps); they took a traditional route into teaching (participated in a traditional certification program versus an alternative certification program, the latter of which is defined in the teacher survey questionnaire as “a program that was designed to expedite the transition of nonteachers to a teaching career, for example, a state, district, or university alternative certification program”); they are experienced (have more than 5 years of experience); and they have a background in the subject of main assignment, i.e., they have a bachelor's or master's degree in the main teaching assignment field (general education, special education, or subject-matter specific degree) versus having no educational background in the subject of main assignment.
Source: 2015–2016 National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) microdata from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
Change over time in teacher credentials : Share of teachers without various credentials, by type of credential, 2011–2012 and 2015–2016
Source: 2011–2012 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) and 2015–2016 National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) microdata from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
As Figure B shows, as of 2015–2016, there are significant shares of teachers without the credentials associated with being a highly qualified teacher. For example, 8.8 percent of teachers do not have a standard state certificate or advanced professional certificate (i.e., they are not fully certified), and 17.1 percent have followed an alternative route into teaching. Nearly one in four teachers (22.4 percent) has five or fewer years of experience. And, as shown in Figure C, almost one in ten (9.4 percent) has fewer than two years of experience, i.e., are novices. Moreover, nearly a third of teachers (31.5 percent) do not have an education background in their subject of main assignment.
Moreover, as Figure C shows, the share of teachers without the credentials of highly qualified teachers has roughly stayed the same or increased since the 2011–2012 school year, growing the shortage of highly qualified teachers. While the shares of teachers who aren’t fully certified and who don’t have an educational background in the main subject that they are teaching increased by only 0.4 percentage points, the share of teachers who took an alternative route into teaching and the share of inexperienced teachers increased by between 2 and 3 percentage points.
The teacher shortage is more acute in high-poverty schools
The published estimates of the increasing teacher shortage further understate the magnitude of the problem because the estimates don’t reflect the fact that the shortage of qualified teachers is not spread evenly among all schools but is more acute in high-poverty schools. While we don’t have specific estimates of the shortage in low- and high-poverty schools analogous to the national shortage estimates of Sutcher, Darling-Hammond, and Carver-Thomas (2016), we can infer the greater shortage of highly qualified teachers in high-poverty schools from the following premises and from our own data analyses. 5 First, highly qualified teachers are in higher demand and therefore tend to have more options with respect to where they want to teach. They are more likely to be recruited by higher-income school districts and to join the staffs of schools that provide them with better support and working conditions and more choices of grades and subjects to teach. 6
Second, although teachers with stronger credentials are less likely to quit the profession or move to a different school, 7 the link between strong credentials and retention might be less powerful in high-poverty schools. It would not be surprising to find that the retention power of strong credentials varies across schools, given the research showing that other factors are dependent on school poverty. 8 This weakened retention effect could also apply to new teachers who don’t have experience but who have the other credentials of highly qualified teachers, meaning strong new teachers would be looking at alternatives to the low-income schools where they are more likely to begin their careers.
We examine the same National Teacher and Principal Survey data from 2015–2016 now to show that the share of teachers who are highly qualified is smaller in high-poverty schools than in low-poverty schools. In this analysis, due to available information, we look at the composition of the group of students under the teacher’s instruction (instead of the student body composition of the school, which is the standard metric used to describe school poverty). 9 We consider a teacher to be working in a low-poverty school if less than 25 percent of the students in the teacher’s class are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch programs. A teacher is in a high-poverty school if 50 percent or more of his or her students are eligible for those programs. We find that low-income children are consistently, albeit modestly, more likely to be taught by lower-credentialed and novice teachers, as shown in the third and fourth columns in Table 1 . In high-poverty schools, the share of teachers who are not fully certified is close to three percentage points higher than it is in low-poverty schools. Also relative to low-poverty schools, the share of inexperienced teachers (teachers with five years or less of experience) is 4.8 percentage points higher in high-poverty schools; the share of teachers who followed an alternative route into teaching is 5.6 percentage points higher in high-poverty schools; and the share of teachers who don’t have educational background in their subject of main assignment is 6.3 percentage points higher in high-poverty schools.
Credentials of teachers in low- and high-poverty schools : Share of teachers with and without various credentials by school type
Notes: Data are for teachers in public noncharter schools. According to research and to the U.S. Department of Education, highly qualified teachers have the following four credentials: They are fully certified (with a regular, standard state certificate or advanced professional certificate versus not having completed all the steps); they took a traditional route into teaching (participated in a traditional certification program versus an alternative certification program, the latter of which is defined in the teacher survey questionnaire as “a program that was designed to expedite the transition of nonteachers to a teaching career, for example, a state, district, or university alternative certification program”); they are experienced (have more than 5 years of experience); and they have a background in the subject of main assignment, i.e., they have a bachelor's or master's degree in the main teaching assignment field (general education, special education, or subject-matter specific degree) versus having no educational background in the subject of main assignment. A teacher is in a low-poverty school if less than 25 percent of the student body in his/her class is eligible for free or reduced-price lunch programs; a teacher is in a high-poverty school if 50 percent or more of the student body she/he teaches are eligible for those programs.
Source: 2015–2016 National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) microdata from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
When looking across types of schools, two factors further contribute to the shortage of highly qualified teachers in high-poverty schools. First, while the data still confirm that higher credentials deter attrition (in this analysis, shown descriptively), we find that this link between quality and retention is weaker in high-poverty schools, and this leads to a relative leakage of credentials through attrition in high-poverty schools. We present our own analysis of these links in Table 2 . In both high- and low-poverty schools, the credentials of teachers who stay in the school are better than those of teachers who quit teaching altogether. But the differences are narrower for teachers in high-poverty schools (with the exception of the share of teachers who majored in their subject of main assignment).
Credentials of teachers who stay in their school versus who quit teaching : Share of teachers with various credentials and gap between teachers who stay and those who quit, by school type
Notes: Data are for teachers in public noncharter schools. According to research and to the U.S. Department of Education, highly qualified teachers have the following four credentials: They are fully certified (with a regular, standard state certificate or advanced professional certificate versus not having completed all the steps); they took a traditional route into teaching (participated in a traditional certification program versus an alternative certification program, the latter of which is defined in the teacher survey questionnaire as “a program that was designed to expedite the transition of nonteachers to a teaching career, for example, a state, district, or university alternative certification program”); they are experienced (have more than 5 years of experience); and they have a background in the subject of main assignment, i.e., they have a bachelor's or master's degree majoring in the main teaching assignment field (general education, special education, or subject-matter specific degree) versus having no educational background in the subject of main assignment. A teacher is in a low-poverty school if less than 25 percent of the student body in his/her class is eligible for free or reduced-price lunch programs; a teacher is in a high-poverty school if 50 percent or more of the student body she/he teaches are eligible for those programs. Teaching status is determined by the reported status of teachers in the Teacher Follow-up Survey conducted for the 2012–2013 school year, one year after the Schools and Staffing Survey. Teachers who stay at the same school are teachers whose status the year after is “Teaching in this school.” Teachers who left teaching are those who generated a vacancy in the 2012–2013 school year and are not in the profession (they left teaching, were on long-term leave, or were deceased). Not included in the table are teachers who generated a vacancy in the school year but remained in the profession (i.e., left to teach in another school or were on short-term leave and planned to return to the school).
Source: 2011–2012 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) microdata and 2012–2013 Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS) microdata from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
Whereas Table 2 presents gaps between the share of staying teachers with a given quality credential and the share of quitting teachers with that credential (for both low- and high-poverty schools), Figure D pulls data from Table 2 on staying teachers to present another type of gap: the gap between shares of staying teachers in high-poverty schools with a given quality credential and the shares of staying teachers in low-poverty schools with a given quality credential. 10 The figure shows that teachers who stay in high-poverty schools are less qualified than teachers who stay in low-poverty schools. It also shows that relative to staying teachers in low-poverty schools, the share of staying teachers in high-poverty schools who are certified is smaller (by a gap of 1.8 percentage points), the share who entered the profession through a traditional certification program is smaller (by 6.3 percentage points), the share who have an educational background in the subject of main assignment is also smaller (by 5.4 percentage points), and the share who have more than five years of experience is also smaller (by 5.2 percentage points).
The shares of credentialed staying teachers are smaller in high-poverty schools : Percentage-point difference between the share of teachers staying in high-poverty schools who have a given credential and the share of teachers staying in low-poverty schools with that credential
Notes: Data are for teachers in public noncharter schools. According to research and to the U.S. Department of Education, highly qualified teachers have the following four credentials: They are fully certified (with a regular, standard state certificate or advanced professional certificate versus not having completed all the steps); they took a traditional route into teaching (participated in a traditional certification program versus an alternative certification program, the latter of which is defined in the teacher survey questionnaire as “a program that was designed to expedite the transition of nonteachers to a teaching career, for example, a state, district, or university alternative certification program”); they are experienced (have more than 5 years of experience); and they have a background in the subject of main assignment, i.e., they have a bachelor's or master's degree majoring in the main teaching assignment field (general education, special education, or subject-matter specific degree) versus having no educational background in the subject of main assignment. A teacher is in a low-poverty school if less than 25 percent of the student body in his/her class is eligible for free or reduced-price lunch programs; a teacher is in a high-poverty school if 50 percent or more of the student body she/he teaches are eligible for those programs. Teaching status is determined by the reported status of teachers in the Teacher Follow-up Survey conducted for the 2012–2013 school year, one year after the Schools and Staffing Survey. Teachers who stay at the same school are teachers whose status the year after is “Teaching in this school.”
Conclusion: We must tackle the working conditions and other factors that contribute to the growing teacher shortage, especially in high-poverty schools
There is no sign that the large shortage of credentialed teachers—overall, and especially in high-poverty schools—will go away. In light of the harms this shortage creates, as well as its size and trends, it is critical to understand the nature of the problem and the complexity of the teacher labor market. Only when we understand the factors that contribute to the growing shortage of high-quality teachers can we design policy interventions—and better guide institutional decisions—to find the “missing” teachers.
As a first step to exploring the teacher shortage, it is important to acknowledge that the teacher shortage is the result of multiple and interdependent drivers, all working simultaneously to cause the imbalance between the number of new teachers needed (demand) and the number of individuals available to be hired (supply). But both supply-side and demand-side drivers of the labor market for teachers are products of existing working conditions, existing policies, and other factors. If these change, this can in turn drive changes in the demand and supply of teachers and affect the size (or existence) of the teacher shortage. 11
We put forth this series of reports to analyze the factors that contribute to shortages of highly qualified teachers, and to the larger shortage of these teachers in high-poverty schools. Though no one condition or factor alone creates or eliminates shortages, each of them plays a role in this established problem, deserves separate attention, and has its own policy implications. Indeed, it is because we rarely provide this attention that we have failed to understand and fix the problems. The reports that we are publishing in this series will focus on these multiple intersecting factors. The second paper shows how a teacher shortage manifests in schools in the form of real struggles schools are having in properly staffing themselves. The three reports that follow dig into some of the reasons why teaching is becoming an unattractive profession. Specifically, four forthcoming reports will show the following:
- Schools struggle to find and retain highly qualified individuals to teach, and this struggle is tougher in high-poverty schools (report #2). A dwindling pool of applicants and excessive teacher attrition make staffing schools difficult. With the number of students completing teacher preparation programs falling dramatically, and with significant rates of attrition and turnover in the profession, it should be no surprise that schools report difficulties in hiring and, in some cases, do not hire anyone to fill vacancies. The difficulties are greater in high-poverty schools. The share of schools that are hiring, the difficulty in filling vacancies, and the share of unfilled vacancies all increased in the past few years.
- Low teacher pay is reducing the attractiveness of teaching jobs, and is an even bigger problem in high-poverty schools (report #3). Teachers have long been underpaid compared with similarly educated workers in other professions, with a pay gap that has grown substantially in the past two decades. In high-poverty schools, teachers face a double disadvantage, as they are further underpaid relative to their peers in low-poverty schools.
- The tough school environment is demoralizing to teachers, especially so in high-poverty schools (report #4). Teachers report that student absenteeism, class-cutting, student apathy, lack of parental involvement, poor student health, poverty, and other factors are a problem. Larger shares of teachers also report high levels of stress and fears for their safety. The school climate is tougher in high-poverty schools. Relative to their peers in low-poverty schools, teachers in high-poverty schools are less likely to say they intend to continue to teach and more likely to say they think about transferring to another school.
- Teachers—especially in high-poverty schools—aren’t getting the training, early career support, and professional development opportunities they need to succeed and this too is keeping them, or driving them, out of the profession (report #5). The lack of supports that are critical to succeeding in the classroom and the unsatisfactory continued training makes teaching less attractive and impedes its professionalization. Teachers in high-poverty schools devote a slightly larger share of their hours to delivering instruction, and fewer of them have scheduled time for professional development.
Together, these factors, their trends, and the lack of proper comprehensive policy attention countering them have created a perfect storm in the teacher labor market, as evident in the spiking shortage of highly qualified teachers, especially in high-poverty schools. The sixth and final report in the series calls for immediate policy steps to address this national crisis.
Data sources used in this series
The analyses presented in this series of reports mainly rely on the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) 2011–2012, the Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS) 2012–2013, and the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) 2015–2016. 12 The surveys are representative of teachers, principals, and schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. 13 All three surveys were conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the U.S. Department of Education. The survey results are housed in the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which is part of the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES).
The NTPS is the redesigned SASS, with a focus on “flexibility, timeliness, and integration with other Department of Education data” (NCES 2019). Both the NTPS and SASS include very detailed questionnaires at the teacher level, school level, and principal level, and the SASS also includes very detailed questionnaires at the school district level (NCES 2017). The TFS survey, which is the source of data on teachers who stay or quit, was conducted a year after the SASS survey to collect information on the employment and teaching status, plans, and opinions of teachers in the SASS. Following the first administration of the NTPS, no follow-up study was done, preventing us from conducting an updated analysis of teachers by teaching status the year after. NCES plans to conduct a TFS again in the 2020–2021 school year, following the 2019–2020 NTPS.
The 2015–2016 NTPS includes public and charter schools only, while the SASS and TFS include all schools (public, private, and charter schools). 14 We restrict our analyses to public schools and teachers in public noncharter schools.
About the authors
Emma García is an education economist at the Economic Policy Institute, where she specializes in the economics of education and education policy. Her research focuses on the production of education (cognitive and noncognitive skills); evaluation of educational interventions (early childhood, K–12, and higher education); equity; returns to education; teacher labor markets; and cost-effectiveness and cost–benefit analysis in education. She has held research positions at the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education, the Campaign for Educational Equity, the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, and the Community College Research Center; consulted for MDRC, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the National Institute for Early Education Research; and served as an adjunct faculty member at the McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University. She received her Ph.D. in Economics and Education from Columbia University’s Teachers College.
Elaine Weiss is the lead policy analyst for income security at the National Academy of Social Insurance, where she spearheads projects on Social Security, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation. Prior to her work at the academy, Weiss was the national coordinator for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education, a campaign launched by the Economic Policy Institute, from 2011–2017. BBA promoted a comprehensive, evidence-based set of policies to allow all children to thrive in school and life. Weiss has coauthored and authored EPI and BBA reports on early achievement gaps and the flaws in market-oriented education reforms. She is co-authoring Broader, Bolder, Better , a book with former Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville that will be published by Harvard Education Press in June 2019. Weiss came to BBA from the Pew Charitable Trusts, where she served as project manager for Pew’s Partnership for America’s Economic Success campaign. She has a PhD. in public policy from the George Washington University Trachtenberg School and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
The authors are grateful to Lora Engdahl for her extraordinary contributions to structuring the contents of this series of papers, and for her edits to this piece. We are also thankful to John Schmitt for coordination and supervision of this project. A special thank you is noted for Desiree Carver-Thomas, her coauthors Leib Sutcher and Linda Darling-Hammond, and the Learning Policy Institute for granting us access to the data used in Figure 1 in their report U.S. (Sutcher, Darling-Hammond, and Carver-Thomas 2016). We also want to acknowledge Lawrence Mishel for his guidance in earlier stages of the development of this research. We appreciate Julia Wolfe for her help preparing the tables and figures in this report, Kayla Blado for her work disseminating the report and her assistance with the media, and EPI communications director Pedro da Costa and the rest of the communications staff at EPI for their contributions to the different components of this report and the teacher shortage series.
1. See, for examples in the media, Strauss 2015; Rich 2015, Westervelt 2015, Strauss 2017. The Department of Education publishes the “States’ Reports of Teacher Shortage Areas (TSA)” on a yearly basis. These are areas in which the states expect to have vacancies (these are not lists of official job openings. For the historical TSA report, see U.S. Department of Education 2017; 2019. We note the change in the media’s focus over the course of the development of this study, with the media now covering the conditions under which teachers work, and the numerous teacher strikes demonstrating those conditions.
2. See Strauss 2017 for a blog post written by Linda Darling-Hammond, Leib Sutcher, and Desiree Carver-Thomas. The authors noted that a cost of over $7 billion in the 2007 study would translate to over $8 billion today. Note that this is an estimate of the cost of turnover/attrition, not an estimate of the cost of the shortage.
3. Regarding alternative certification—certification via programs designed to expedite the transition of nonteachers to a teaching career and offered both by institutions of higher education but also many other entities—Fraser and Lefty (2018) explain, “University faculty have written research-based studies, most of which seem to conclude that the university is the proper home for teacher preparation and that the rise of alternative routes is a mostly negative development. On the other hand, advocates of alternative approaches claim that education schools are hopelessly stuck and unlikely to reform, and that alternative routes represent the optimal way to prepare new teachers for twenty-first-century classrooms.” Research on the effectiveness of teachers who entered teaching through alternative pathways finds these teachers are, in general, not more effective than teachers who entered through traditional programs (Whitford, Zhang, and Katsiyannis 2017; Clark et al. 2017; Kane, Rockoff, and Staiger 2008), and that teachers who entered through alternative pathways are more likely to quit (Redding and Smith 2016). For a recent review on how credentials matter for teacher effectiveness, see Coenen et al. (2017).
4. Section 9101(23) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), which was last reauthorized in 2015 (and renamed the Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA), defines the term “highly qualified.” The definition can be found on the U.S. Department of Education’s “Laws & Guidance” page for Title IX at http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/pg107.html#sec9101 . The states’ equity profiles can be found on the U.S. Department of Education’s “Laws & Guidance” page for Equitable Access to Excellent Educators at https://www2.ed.gov/programs/titleiparta/resources.html.
5. The research evidence clearly shows that school poverty influences turnover and attrition of teachers—two drivers of shortages. But, to date, researchers have not produced any estimate of the gap between the number of highly qualified teachers needed and the number available to be hired in high-poverty schools. For evidence of the influence of school poverty on turnover and attrition, see, among others, Sutcher, Darling-Hammond, and Carver-Thomas 2016; Podolsky et al. 2016; Loeb, Darling-Hammond, and Luczak 2005; Ingersoll, Merrill, and Stuckey 2014; Darling-Hammond 2010; and Simon and Johnson 2015.
6. See Adamson and Darling-Hammond 2012; Clotfelter et al. 2006; Darling-Hammond 2004; Isenberg et al. 2013; García and Mishel 2016; Baker 2018, chapter 3.
7. For some of these quality credentials, the relationship is not linear, but curvilinear or U-shaped. Borman and Dowling (2008) find greater odds of attrition “among those who have no graduate degree, have regular certifications, have more years of experience, and score relatively lower on some standardized tests,” though they acknowledge that these factors can change across a teacher’s life span and career path. Both early career teachers and teachers close to retirement are more likely to quit (Allensworth, Ponisciak, and Mazzeo, 2009; Guarino, Santibáñez, and Daley, 2006; Ingersoll 2001), which creates a U-shaped curve describing the relationship between attrition and age or experience. For other credentials, some also find that higher rates of turnover are associated with both the strongest and weakest education credentials (Marinell and Coca 2013, for New York City). Our research does not consider having specialized degrees in math and science a high-quality credential, but an attribute of teachers. These teachers may be more likely to leave a school or quit teaching for reasons that have to do with the wider availability of STEM-related opportunities outside of teaching in our economy.
8. Loeb, Darling-Hammond, and Luczak (2005), for example, find that the measured influence of school characteristics on turnover is sensitive to the introduction of variables measuring working conditions (such as salaries, class sizes, facilities problems, lack of textbooks, etc.) in the specification, which indicates the link between conditions and school poverty. The authors do not conduct separate analyses (nor use interaction terms), but in their sequence of models, the credential variables’ coefficients are sensitive in size and statistical significance to the introduction of a control for school poverty and also the variables measuring working conditions. See also references in Endnote 7.
9. Although in this series we use share of low-income students to examine (in)equities in the teacher shortage across schools, we could alternatively employ other indicators of disadvantage—such as share of minority students, students with disabilities, or students who are English Language Learners—which could also enlighten us about other sets of inequities. Generically, schools with high concentrations of these subgroups are sometimes referred to as “high-needs” schools.
10. The lower credentials of staying teachers in high-poverty schools relative to low-poverty schools are the result of the patterns shown in Tables 1 and 2: one, that the credentials of teachers in high-poverty schools are lower than in high-poverty schools; and two, that the link between attrition and credentials is weaker in high-poverty schools, allowing for highly qualified teachers to move or quit the profession at different rates for similar credentials across the two types of schools.
11. Technically, these drivers can be broken down into supply-side drivers (such as the number of people interested in and training to be teachers and the attachment existing teachers feel to the profession) and demand-side drivers (such as the number of teachers needed for a given number of students with a given set of needs, or the size of school budgets). Rising student enrollment and the trend toward smaller classes clearly increase demand (shift demand curve out to the right), while worsening work conditions (decreased autonomy, teaching to the test, and increasing behavioral problems) reduce supply (shift the supply curve to the left). Other drivers, however, are muddier, since labor markets, especially public-sector labor markets, operate with a lag (the number of students in teaching pipelines reflects past, not current, conditions) and are not textbook competitive markets. High turnover, for example, might be driving “supply” (if keeping all other drivers constant), but turnover might also be driven by teachers who are leaving teaching or moving to other districts due to other issues driving “demand” or affecting “matching.” In the teacher labor market literature, terms such as “recruitment and retention” are used, but these are technically about “matching” rather than the “supply side.”
12. We use other data from the NCES and DOE, which will be cited appropriately in later studies.
13. The 2015–2016 NTPS does not produce state-representative estimates. The forthcoming 2017–2018 NTPS will support state-level estimates.
14. The forthcoming 2017–2018 NTPS additionally includes the private sector.
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Strauss, Valerie. 2015. “ The Real Reasons Behind the U.S. Teacher Shortage ,” Washington Post , August 24, 2015.
Strauss, Valerie. 2017. “ Why It’s a Big Problem That So Many Teachers Quit—and What to Do About It ,” Washington Post , November 27, 2017.
Sutcher, Leib, Linda Darling-Hammond, and Desiree Carver-Thomas. 2016. A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S. Learning Policy Institute, September 2016.
U.S. Department of Education. 2017. Teacher Shortage Areas Nationwide Listing. 1990–1991 through 2017–2018 . June 2017.
U.S. Department of Education. 2019. “ Office of Postsecondary Education: Teacher Shortage Areas ” (webpage), accessed March 2019.
Westervelt, Eric. 2015. “ Where Have All the Teachers Gone? ,” NPR’s All Things Considered , March 3, 2015.
Whitford, Denise K., Dake Zhang, and Antonis Katsiyannis. 2017. “Traditional vs. Alternative Teacher Preparation Programs: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Child and Family Studies 27, no. 3: 671–685.
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- How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .
Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.
You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:
- Start with a question
- Write your initial answer
- Develop your answer
- Refine your thesis statement
Table of contents
What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.
A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.
The best thesis statements are:
- Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
- Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
- Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.
Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.
The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .
The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.
You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.
You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?
For example, you might ask:
After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .
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Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.
In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.
The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.
In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.
The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.
A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:
- Why you hold this position
- What they’ll learn from your essay
- The key points of your argument or narrative
The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.
These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.
Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:
- In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
- In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.
If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!
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A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.
The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:
- It gives your writing direction and focus.
- It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.
Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.
Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :
- Ask a question about your topic .
- Write your initial answer.
- Develop your answer by including reasons.
- Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.
The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .
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Example Of Argumentative Essay On Teachers Pay System
Type of paper: Argumentative Essay
Topic: Education , Learning , Students , Family , Money , Teaching , Children , Workplace
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Whether or the performance any worker should be connected to their performance has been a topic of contention for quite a long time. Measuring the performance of a worker is not easy especially in such fields as the service industry. One such example of job performance is that of teachers. Arguably, teaching is one of the most tedious white collar jobs following its monotonous nature (Brown & Heywood 28). For this reason, many scholars and experts have argued that the performance of a teacher tends to decline with time. Research has it that new teachers perform better than more experienced teachers since the new teachers have not yet experienced the monotony of the teaching profession. Experts in the field have argued that to maintain high performance standards among the teachers, the performance of the students should be directly linked to the pay of the teachers. While this may seem like a light matter, it has sparked emotion and reason from various scholars. Those for the idea hold that it is a good way of maintaining good performance. Those with contrary ideas argue that this would amount to abusing the teachers’ professionalism since poor performance among the students could be a result of their personal inefficiencies. This paper seeks to explain the arguments and counterarguments relating to this topic. The proponents of the idea argue that it is a valuable way of discouraging laxity among the teachers. This, they say, is in line with the presumption that no teacher would prefer to be paid little money. As such, they will work hard as they endeavor to achieve. This way, they will be able to impart the necessary knowledge into the students compelling them to perform well in their examinations and continuous assessment tests (Podgursky 46). The performance of the students is the direct determinant of the teachers’ pay. As such, the teacher will always strive to achieve the highest salary possible. This way, the system will achieve mutual satisfaction since the student will have achieved good results, the same way the teacher will have achieved good pay. Thus, the system of linking the pay of the teacher to the performance of the children is an appropriate tool for eliminating laxity and boosting the performance of the children. The second argument for the idea of paying teachers according to the performance of the students is that it is an efficient way of creating worth for money. Paying a child’s school fees is same as investing in a long term project since essentially, education is the most significant way of shaping a young person’s future in a civilized society. The return from this investment is good performance that will enable a child achieve their desired dream in the long run (OECD 86). Clearly, poor performance cannot grant one a good future. As such the teachers should be compelled to deliver the best. This way the children will be able to perform well, and the parent will have received the real value for their money. As such, paying the teachers according to the performance of the children is an effective way of creating quality and yielding true satisfaction for parents and guardians funding the students’ education. The third argument in favor of the performance-pay scheme is the fact that it motivates the teachers and creates close relationships between teachers and their students. A teacher that is willing to achieve a high pay must maintain effective communication between them and their students. Such communication that comes in as a way of creating channels for academic assistance can be a good way of motivating both the teacher and student (Kelly & Odden 116). The student will always be comfortable to work with students that are motivated and with whom they can communicate freely. Such motivation not only impacts positively on the performance of the child, but also creates good social skills for both the student and teacher. This makes the school setting a friendly environment for the children to grow and develop. Additionally, the decision to link the pay of the teacher to the performance of the students is one way of identifying the most qualified teachers for purposes of performance appraisal. This system as well ensures that the teachers use their full potential since everybody‘s desire for money does not obey the law of DMU (diminishing marginal utility). The pay-performance contracts can bring continuous improvement to a learning institution. Continuous improvement is the aim of all institutions that endeavor to continue existing perpetually. One of the main counterargument of the above arguments, is that linking the pay of the teacher directly to the performance of the children cannot possibly eliminate laxity among the students since some individuals be contented with the little pay they receive (Haynes & Chamberlain 126). In an average class, there are those students that will always perform well even with the least instruction. As such, the teacher will always have some minimum pay. Depending on the personality and the needs of the teacher, he or she may not put so much effort into achieving good results, and consequently higher pay. Certainly, this means that the system is not the most effective way of discouraging laxity. Additionally, a teacher can be less industrious in a situation where the students are averagely bright. Similarly, in situations where the quality of examinations is left to the discretion of the teacher, it is likely that a teacher will use the discretionary powers to set substandard examinations, which the weakest student will pass colorfully. This way the teachers will create a habit of boosting their pay through such malicious methods. The second counterargument is that using the results of the students to determine the pay of the teacher cannot be a way of creating value for money. As much as the teacher may remain focused and determined to have the children perform, there are those students that are unwilling to learn (Earthman 56). Such reluctant students cannot create value for the money of their parents despite the efforts of teachers to have them do so. Additionally, there are those students that are naturally slow to learn. Such students can make a teacher earn a little money since they will not perform as expected due to innate inadequacies. This may amount to overworking the teacher since he or she may have to prepare extra remedial classes for the slow learning students. Still, it is not fully guaranteed that the children will perform well after the remedial classes. Thirdly, it is not guaranteed that such an arrangement will yield close relationships among the teachers and the student s since the approaches that teachers may take towards achieving the good results could differ from one teacher to another. In simple words, one teacher may decide to be stern on the students as a way of compelling them to perform while another may opt to be friendly as a way of motivating and encouraging students to achieve desirable results (Department for Education and Skills 131). The stern approach may widen the gap between the children and the teacher and may create enmity between the two parties. Such enmity may make a student develop a negative attitude towards the teacher. This may in turn impact negatively on both the teacher and the student since the student’s failure to perform well will mean a low salary for the teacher. This way, the idea may be counterproductive, contrary to the assumptions of the proponents. In conclusion, it is rather apparent that the system will not be as helpful as expected since the outcomes are relative and may change from one setting to another depending on the capabilities and attitudes of the students. Similarly, the effectiveness of such an arrangement may depend upon the attitude and approach of the teacher towards the desire to achieve. As such, the assumptions of this approach can be challenged from all corners as they are quite subjective. On the other hand, the system can be effective in achieving good performance on the part of the children as well as eliminating laxity among the teachers. The arrangement may strengthen the bond between the students and teachers as the two improve communications for mutual benefit (Chingos 117). This may create a conducive learning environment where both the teacher and the student gain. It is, however, necessary to observe that pay cannot be purely dependent on the results of the students’ examinations and overall performance since the children may be naturally inefficient. It is for this reason that experts have proposed a system where the teacher receives some minimum pay with some form of commission for exemplary performance.
Brown, Michelle & Heywood, John. Paying For Performance: An International Comparison. New York. M.E Sharpe, Inc. 2002. Print Chingos, Peter. A Guide to Compensation Management (2nd Edition). New York. John Wiley & Sons. 2002. Print Earthman, Glen. What Educators Need To Know (3rd Edition). New York. Rowman & Littlefield Education.2009. Print Haynes Wragg & Chamberlain, Wragg. Performance Pay for the Views and Expenses of Heads and Teachers. London. RoutlegerFalmer. 2004. Print Kelly, Carolyn & Odden, Allan. Paying Teachers For What They Know And Do: New Smarter Compensation Strategies To Improve Schools. New York. SAGE Publications. 2002. Print OECD. Establishing a Framework for Evaluation and Teacher Incentives: Considerations for Mexico. Mexico. OECD. 2011. Print Podgursky, Michael & Bollou, Dale. Teacher Pay and Teacher Quality. New York. Routledge. 1997. Print
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13 Refining Your Thesis Statement
As you develop experience and confidence as a writer, you can consider more steps to improve your thesis statement, like those ones discussed in the University of Laurier Library video  :
If you are able to:
- Make an argument
- Answer ‘so what?’
- Be specific
- Have only one idea
- Make it supportable
You can make improvements in your thesis statement.
See if you can identify strong thesis statements:
- " Improving Your Thesis Statement " by Laurier Library CC BY 4.0 ↵
- Adapted from Excelsior Online Writing Lab (OWL) CC BY 4.0 ) ↵
Academic Writing Basics Copyright © 2019 by Megan Robertson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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Harvard President Resigns After Mounting Plagiarism Accusations
Claudine Gay faced backlash over the university’s response to antisemitism on campus, which led to increased scrutiny of her academic record.
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By Jennifer Schuessler , Anemona Hartocollis , Michael Levenson and Alan Blinder
- Published Jan. 2, 2024 Updated Jan. 3, 2024, 3:01 a.m. ET
Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay, announced her resignation on Tuesday, after her presidency had become engulfed in crisis over accusations of plagiarism and what some called her insufficient response to antisemitism on campus after the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on Oct. 7.
In announcing she would step down immediately, Dr. Gay, Harvard’s first Black president and the second woman to lead the university, ended a turbulent tenure that began last July. She will have the shortest stint in office of any Harvard president since its founding in 1636.
Alan M. Garber, an economist and physician who is Harvard’s provost and chief academic officer, will serve as interim president. Dr. Gay will remain a tenured professor of government and African and African American studies.
Dr. Gay became the second university president to resign in recent weeks, after she and the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and M.I.T. appeared in a Dec. 5 congressional hearing in which they appeared to evade the question of whether students who called for the genocide of Jews should be punished.
Penn’s president, M. Elizabeth Magill, resigned four days after that hearing. Sally Kornbluth, M.I.T.’s president, has also faced calls for her resignation.
In a letter announcing her decision, Dr. Gay said that after consulting with members of the university’s governing body, the Harvard Corporation, “it has become clear that it is in the best interests of Harvard for me to resign so that our community can navigate this moment of extraordinary challenge with a focus on the institution rather than any individual.”
At the same time, Dr. Gay, 53, defended her academic record and suggested that she was the target of highly personal and racist attacks.
“Amidst all of this, it has been distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigor — two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am — and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus,” she wrote.
Last year, the news of Dr. Gay’s appointment was widely seen as a breakthrough moment for the university. The daughter of Haitian immigrants and an expert on minority representation and political participation in government, she took office just as the Supreme Court rejected the use of race-conscious admissions at Harvard and other universities.
She also became a major target of some powerful graduates like the billionaire investor William A. Ackman , who was concerned about antisemitism and suggested on social media last month that Harvard had only considered candidates for the presidency who met “the D.E.I. office’s criteria,” referring to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Dr. Gay’s resignation came after the latest plagiarism accusations against her were circulated in an unsigned complaint published on Monday in The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative online journal that has led a campaign against Dr. Gay over the past few weeks.
The complaint added to about 40 other plagiarism accusations that had already been circulated in the journal. The accusations raised questions about whether Harvard was holding its president to the same academic standards as its students.
Lawrence H. Summers, the former U.S. treasury secretary who resigned as Harvard president under pressure in 2006, suggested that Dr. Gay had made the right decision. “I admire Claudine Gay for putting Harvard’s interests first at what I know must be an agonizingly difficult moment,” he said in an email.
Representative Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican who leads the House committee that is investigating Harvard and other universities, said the inquiry would continue despite Dr. Gay’s resignation.
“There has been a hostile takeover of postsecondary education by political activists, woke faculty and partisan administrators,” Ms. Foxx said in a statement, adding, “The problems at Harvard are much larger than one leader.”
On Harvard’s campus, some expressed deep dismay with what they described as a politically motivated campaign against Dr. Gay and higher education more broadly. Hundreds of faculty members had signed public letters asking Harvard’s governing board to resist pressure to remove Dr. Gay.
“This is a terrible moment,” said Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a professor of history, race and public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. “Republican congressional leaders have declared war on the independence of colleges and universities, just as Governor DeSantis has done in Florida. They will only be emboldened by Gay’s resignation.”
Some faculty members criticized how the secretive Harvard Corporation had handled the political onslaught and plagiarism allegations.
Alison Frank Johnson, a history professor, said she “couldn’t be more dismayed.”
“Instead of making a decision based on established scholarly principles, we had here a public hounding,” she said. “Instead of listening to voices of scholars in her field who could speak to the importance and originality of her research, we heard voices of derision and spite on social media. Instead of following established university procedure, we had a corporation granting access to self-appointed advisers and carrying out reviews using mysterious and undisclosed methods.”
Rumors about problems in Dr. Gay’s work had circulated for months on anonymous message boards. But the first widely publicized report came on Dec. 10, before Harvard’s board met to discuss Dr. Gay’s future, after her disastrous testimony in the congressional hearing.
That evening, the conservative activist Christopher Rufo published an essay in his Substack newsletter highlighting what he described as “problematic patterns of usage and citation” in Dr. Gay’s 1997 doctoral dissertation.
The Washington Free Beacon followed with several articles detailing allegations regarding her published scholarly articles, and reported two formal complaints submitted to the Research Integrity Office of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
In a statement on Dec. 12 saying that Dr. Gay would stay on, the board acknowledged the accusations and said it had been made aware of them in late October. The board said it had conducted an investigation and found “a few instances of inadequate citation” in two articles, which it said would be corrected. But the infractions, the board said, did not rise to the level of “research misconduct.”
Dr. Gay was already under pressure for what some had said was the university’s inadequate response to the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.
After initially remaining silent after student groups wrote an open letter saying that Israel was “entirely responsible” for the violence, Dr. Gay and other officials released a letter to the university community acknowledging “feelings of fear, sadness, anger and more.” After an outcry over what some considered the tepid language, Dr. Gay issued a more forceful statement condemning Hamas for “terrorist atrocities,” while urging people to use words that “illuminate and not inflame.”
At the congressional hearing, Representative Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York, pelted Dr. Gay and the other university presidents with hypothetical questions.
“At Harvard,” Ms. Stefanik asked Dr. Gay, “does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment? Yes or no?”
“It can be, depending on the context,” Dr. Gay replied.
That exchange, and a similar back and forth between Ms. Stefanik and Ms. Magill, rocketed across social media and infuriated many people with close ties to the universities.
Dr. Gay moved to contain the fallout with an apology in an interview that was published in The Harvard Crimson, the campus newspaper. “When words amplify distress and pain, I don’t know how you could feel anything but regret,” she said.
One week after her testimony, the Harvard Corporation issued a unanimous statement of support — after meeting late into the night — saying that it stood firmly behind her.
But there were signs that controversy might have harmed Harvard’s reputation. The number of students who applied this fall under the university’s early action program — giving them the possibility of an admissions decision in December instead of March — fell about 17 percent, the university said last month.
Reporting was contributed by Dana Goldstein , Rob Copeland , Annie Karni and Vimal Patel . Kirsten Noyes contributed research.
Jennifer Schuessler is a culture reporter covering intellectual life and the world of ideas. She is based in New York. More about Jennifer Schuessler
Anemona Hartocollis is a national reporter for The Times, covering higher education. More about Anemona Hartocollis
Michael Levenson joined The Times in December 2019. He was previously a reporter at The Boston Globe, where he covered local, state and national politics and news. More about Michael Levenson
Alan Blinder is a national correspondent for The Times, covering education. More about Alan Blinder