Letters to the Editor...
Teacher Shortages: Myth or Reality
American Educational Research Association
Teacher Shortages: Myth or Reality
Imbalance of Teacher Supply and Demand
Requires Fresh Look at School
Characteristics and Organizational
WASHINGTON, December 10, 2001 --- Teacher
turnover dominates the demand for new
teachers and the difficulties that schools
encounter in adequately staffing classrooms
with qualified teachers, according to a new
study conducted by an educational
sociologist at the University of
Pennsylvania's Graduate School of
"School staffing problems are primarily due
to excess demand resulting from
a 'revolving door'-where large numbers of
qualified teachers depart their jobs for
reasons other than retirement," concludes
Richard M. Ingersoll, an associate
professor who draws on his research on
other organizations, occupations and work.
High rates of teacher turnover have more to
do with teacher job satisfaction and
teachers pursuing other jobs, and little to
do with teacher retirement because of a
graying workforce, he says.
In his professional analysis of teacher
turnover and resulting teacher shortages,
Professor Ingersoll concentrates on a
largely overlooked area: characteristics of
organizations that employ
teachers. "Schools need to address the
organizational sources of low teacher
retention," he contends, adding recruitment
programs alone will not solve staffing
His findings are presented in the fall
issue of the American Educational Research
Journal, published by the American
Educational Research Association. His
research, based on data from the National
Center for Education Statistics' Schools
and Staffing Survey and its supplement, the
Teacher Followup survey, was partly
supported by the U.S. Department of
Education's Office of Educational Research
The rate of teacher turnover appears to be
higher than in many other occupations,
ranging from 15 percent in 1989 to 14.3
percent in 1995.
Professor Ingersoll's fresh approach
highlights significant effects of school
characteristics and organizational
conditions on teacher turnover rates. As an
example, he cites "high-poverty public
schools as having moderately high turnover
rates, but small private schools stand out
for their high turnover rates."
Four conditions in schools consistently and
crucially impact employee turnover, are
among the most important aspects of school
organization, and are "policy amenable":
compensation structure for employees
level of administrative support
degree of conflict and strife with the
degree of employee input into and influence
over organization policies
Professor Ingersoll reports that distinctly
lower turnover levels were found in schools
that provide more administrative support to
teachers, have lower levels of student
discipline problems, and offer higher
levels of faculty decision-making influence
and autonomy. To a lesser extent, salaries
were associated with lower turnover rates.
In his analysis, key themes emerged:
demand for teachers has increased since the
demand for new teachers is due more to
preretirement turnover, rather than
increases in student enrollment
teacher migration and attrition both prompt
school-to-school differences in turnover
An analysis of teacher turnover would be
incomplete without listing reasons for
turnover. Teachers themselves gave these
reasons for moving between schools or
leaving the field: retirement, the least
prominent reason for leaving; school
staffing action, personal, to pursue
another job and dissatisfaction. Among the
most frequently cited reasons for job
dissatisfaction were low salaries,
inadequate support from school
administration, student discipline
problems, and limited faculty input into
Professor Ingersoll acknowledges teacher
shortages as a big problem too, but notes
that the shortage "crisis" is
exaggerated. "In any given field, only a
minority of schools actually experienced
problems finding qualified teachers to fill
teaching openings. For instance, the data
show that in a typical year, only about one
sixth of secondary schools have any
difficulty filling their job openings for
The dominant policy response to teacher
turnover has been recruitment, increasing
supply through such programs as "Teach for
America," alternative licensing and
financial incentives, like signing bonuses,
student loan forgiveness, housing
assistance, and tuition reimbursement, he
says. "None of these will solve the problem
because recruiting more teachers into
schools will not work in large numbers if
teachers then leave," he adds.
More national research is needed to examine
the impact of teacher turnover on school
community and school performance, Professor
Ingersoll says. Among vital questions that
he believes need to be addressed are: "What
does continual turnover mean for the
teaching staff's ability to establish
teamwork and continuity of curricula and
programs? How does the loss of teachers
affect ties to parents, students and the
-- AERA --
Editor's Note: To arrange an interview with
Richard M. Ingersoll, associate professor
of education and sociology, please call
Jessica Reitano, (215) 898-4820. To obtain
a full text of his journal article, contact
AERA Communications and Outreach, (202) 223-
9485 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Based in Washington, DC, the American
Educational Research Association represents
more than 23,000 educators who conduct
research and evaluation in education. AERA
was founded in 1916.
Austin School Watch, Austin-School-Watchemail@example.com,
This month's letters:
Outside recruitment, 12/31/01, by Kay D..
Alternate Route Teachers, 12/31/01, by John Tuepker.
Teacher Shortages: Myth or Reality, 12/29/01, by Austin School Watch.
outside recruitment, 12/28/01, by Sharin Manes.
Non-Certified People, 12/28/01, by Robin.
outside hires, 12/27/01, by al.
Hiring non-certified people, 12/27/01, by Elaine Ossipov.
Hiring non-certified people, 12/27/01, by angela.
Hiring Non-certified people, 12/27/01, by Bill Page.
hiring non-certified people to fill vacant, 12/26/01, by Michele.
hiring non-certified people to fill vacant teaching position, 12/26/01, by Ann Reimer.
College students who want to take Adderol, 12/09/01, by Sue Ekstrom.