Why Do High-Poverty Schools Have Difficulty Staffing Their Classrooms with Qualified Teachers?

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GSE Faculty Research
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Policy and Administration
Educational Administration and Supervision
Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research
Educational Psychology
Education Economics
Teacher Education and Professional Development
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The failure to ensure that the nation’s classrooms, especially those in disadvantaged schools, are all staffed with qualified teachers is one of the most important problems in contemporary American education. The conventional wisdom holds that these problems are primarily due to shortages of teachers, which, in turn, are primarily due to recent increases in teacher retirement and student enrollment. Unable to compete for the available supply of adequately trained teachers, poor school districts, especially those in urban areas, the critics hold, end up with large numbers of underqualified teachers. The latter is, in turn, held to be a primary factor in the unequal educational and occupational outcomes of children from poor communities. Understandably, the prevailing policy response to these school staffing problems has been to attempt to increase the supply of teachers. In recent years, a wide range of initiatives has been implemented to recruit new candidates into teaching, especially to disadvantaged settings. This report investigates the possibility that other factors – those tied to the characteristics and conditions of schools – are behind the teacher shortage crisis. Unlike earlier research, this analysis focuses on those kinds of schools deemed most disadvantaged and the most needy – those serving rural and urban, low-income communities. The data utilized in this investigation are from the Schools and Staffing Survey and its supplement, the Teacher Follow-up Survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, the data collection arm of the U.S. Department of Education. This is the largest and most comprehensive source of data on teachers available.

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