Graduate School of Education
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PublicationThe Wrong Solution to the Teacher Shortage(2003-05-01) Ingersoll, Richard; Smith, Thomas MIn recent years, researchers and policymakers have told us again and again that severe teacher shortages confront schools. They point to a dramatic increase in the demand for new teachers resulting from two converging demographic trends: increasing student enrollments and increasing numbers of teachers reaching retirement age. Shortfalls of teachers, they say, are forcing many school systems to lower their standards for teacher quality (National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, 1997). PublicationThe Mathematics and Science Teacher Shortage: Fact and Myth(2009-03-01) Ingersoll, Richard; Perda, DavidContemporary educational thought holds that one of the pivotal causes of inadequate school performance is the inability of schools to adequately staff classrooms with qualified teachers, especially in fields such as mathematics and science. Shortages of teachers, it is commonly believed, are at the root of these staffing problems, and these shortfalls are, in turn, primarily due to recent increases in teacher retirements and student enrollments. The objective of this study is to empirically reexamine the issue of mathematics and science teacher shortages and to evaluate the extent to which there is a supply-side deficit—a shortage—of new teachers in these particular fields. The data utilized in this investigation are from three sources—the Schools and Staffing Survey and its supplement, the Teacher Follow-Up Survey; the Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data System; and the Baccalaureate and Beyond Survey, all conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. The data show that there are indeed widespread school staffing problems—that is, many schools experience difficulties filling their classrooms with qualified candidates, especially in the fields of math and science. But, contrary to conventional wisdom, the data also show that these school staffing problems are not solely, or even primarily, due to shortages in the sense that too few new mathematics and science teachers are produced each year. The data document that the new supply of mathematics and science teachers is more than sufficient to cover the losses of teachers due to retirement. For instance, in 2000 there were over two and half teachers in the new supply of math teachers for every one math teacher who retired that year. However, when preretirement teacher turnover is factored in, there is a much tighter balance between the new supply of mathematics and science teachers and losses. The data also shows that turnover varies greatly between different types of schools and these differences are tied to the characteristics and conditions of those schools. While it is true that teacher retirements are increasing, the overall volume of turnover accounted for by retirement is relatively minor when compared with that resulting from other causes, such as teacher job dissatisfaction and teachers seeking to pursue better jobs or other careers. PublicationRejoinder: Misunderstanding the Problem of Out-of-Field Teaching(2001-01-01) Ingersoll, RichardThe phenomenon of out-of-field teaching - teachers assigned to teach subjects for which they have little education or training-is an important, but long unrecognized, problem in schools. It is an important issue because highly qualified teachers may actually become highly unqualified when they teach subjects for which they have little background. This issue has long been unrecognized, however, largely due to an absence of accurate information about it - a situation remedied with the availability, beginning in the early 1990s, of new data on teachers. PublicationLoosely Coupled Organizations Revisited(1993) Ingersoll, RichardOver the past two decades organizational analysts have become increasingly intrigued by those complex organizations which, despite appearing to be highly rationalized, paradoxically seem to lack expected levels of internal coordination and control of their productive activities and employees. The resulting body of research has popularized several new labels for such organizations - loosely coupled systems and organized anarchies. This essay evaluates this line of research by focussing on its analysis of schools, which are usually considered to be the epitome of loosely structured organizations. In brief, I disagree with this perspective's conclusions and argue that distinguishing the mode and degree of organizational coupling and control depend on where, by what criteria and how one looks. My contention is that although this debunking perspective ostensibly rejects tidy rational and efficiency models of organization, ironically it unwittingly employs many of the latter's assumptions of organizational behavior. In particular, these analysts adopt, I argue, a framework that precludes the discovery of both the degree and forms of organizational control within schools. Subsequently, by re-examining and re-interpreting the existing research on school organization, this paper identifies and illustrates a range of institutional and organizational mechanisms by which schools and the work of teachers are constrained and circumscribed. PublicationResearcher Skewers Explanations Behind Teacher Shortage(2002-04-10) Ingersoll, Richard PublicationTurnover Among Mathematics and Science Teachers in the U.S.(2000-02-01) Ingersoll, RichardFor some time educational policy analysts have been predicting that shortfalls of teachers resulting primarily from increases in student enrollment and teacher retirements will make it very difficult for schools to find qualified teachers and, in turn, will hurt school performance. Moreover, analysts have argued that shortages will be worse for particular fields, such as math and science, because of difficulties in recruiting qualified candidates. This paper summarizes what the best available nationally representative data reveal about the rates of, and reasons for, teacher turnover for both math/science and other teachers. The data show that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the problems schools have adequately staffing classrooms with qualified teachers are not primarily due to teacher shortfalls, stemming from either increases in student enrollment or increases in teacher retirement. Rather, the data show that school staffing difficulties are primarily a result of a "revolving door" where large numbers of teachers depart teaching for other reasons, such as job dissatisfaction and in order to pursue better jobs or other careers. These findings have important implications for educational policy. Teacher recruitment programs - the dominant policy approach to addressing school staffing inadequacies - will not solve the staffing problems of schools, if they do not also address the problem of teacher retention. In short, the data indicate that recruiting more teachers will not solve teacher shortages if large numbers of such teachers then prematurely leave. PublicationShort on Power, Long on Responsibility(2007-09-01) Ingersoll, RichardFew education issues have received more attention in recent times than the problem of ensuring that all elementary and secondary classrooms are staffed with high-quality teachers. This concern with teacher quality is not surprising. Mandatory elementary and secondary schooling in the United States places children in the care of teachers for a significant portion of their lives. The quality of teachers and teaching is undoubtedly an important factor in shaping students' growth and learning. PublicationOut-of-Field Teaching and the Limits of Teacher Policy(2003-09-01) Ingersoll, RichardThe failure to ensure that the nation’s classrooms are all staffed with qualified teachers is one of the most important problems in contemporary American education. Over the past decade, many panels, commissions, and studies have focused attention on this problem and, in turn, numerous reforms have been initiated to upgrade the quality and quantity of the teaching force. This report focuses on the problem of underqualified teachers in the core academic fields at the 7-12 th grade level. Using data from the nationally representative Schools and Staffing Survey, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, this analysis examined how many classes are not staffed by minimally qualified teachers, and to what extent these levels have changed in recent years. The data show that while almost all teachers hold at least basic qualifications, there are high levels of out-of-field teaching—teachers assigned to teach subjects that do not match their training or education. Moreover, the data show that out-of-field teaching has gotten slightly worse in recent years, despite a plethora of reforms targeted to improving teacher quality. The report discusses possible reasons for the failure of these reform efforts. My thesis is that, despite the unprecedented interest in and awareness of this problem, there remains little understanding of a key issue—the reasons for the prevalence of underqualified teaching in American schools—resulting thus far in a failure of teacher policy and reform. I conclude by drawing out the lessons and implications of these failures for the prospects of the No Child Left Behind Act to successfully address the problem of underqualified teachers in classrooms in the coming years. PublicationHigh Turnover Plagues Schools(2002-08-15) Ingersoll, Richard PublicationHoles in the Teacher Supply Bucket(2002-03-01) Ingersoll, RichardFew educational issues receive more attention than the need to ensure that all elementary and secondary classrooms are staffed with qualified teachers. A rash of studies, commissions and national reports announce that we are on the precipice of a severe teacher shortage. These shortfalls, we are told, are due primarily to two demographic trends - increasing student enrollment and the retirement of a graying teaching force.