Recruitment, Retention and the Minority Teacher Shortage
This study examines and compares the recruitment and retention of minority and White elementary and secondary teachers and attempts to empirically ground the debate over minority teacher shortages. The data we analyze are from the National Center for Education Statistics’ nationally representative Schools and Staffing Survey and its longitudinal supplement, the Teacher Follow-up Survey. Our data analyses show that a gap continues to persist between the percentage of minority students and the percentage of minority teachers in the U.S. school system. But this gap is not due to a failure to recruit new minority teachers. Over the past two decades, the number of minority teachers has almost doubled, outpacing growth in both the number of White teachers and the number of minority students. Minority teachers are also overwhelmingly employed in public schools serving high-poverty, high-minority and urban communities. Hence, the data suggest that widespread efforts over the past several decades to recruit more minority teachers and employ them in hard-to-staff and disadvantaged schools have been very successful. This increase in the proportion of teachers who are minority is remarkable because the data also show that over the past two decades, turnover rates among minority teachers have been significantly higher than among White teachers. Moreover, though schools’ demographic characteristics appear to be highly important to minority teachers’ initial employment decisions, this does not appear to be the case for their later decisions to stay or depart. Neither a school’s poverty-level student enrollment, a school’s minority student enrollment, a school’s proportion of minority teachers, nor whether the school was in an urban or suburban community was consistently or significantly related to the likelihood that minority teachers would stay or depart, after controlling for other background factors. In contrast, organizational conditions in schools were strongly related to minority teacher departures. Indeed, once organizational conditions are held constant, there was no significant difference in the rates of minority and White teacher turnover. The schools in which minority teachers have disproportionately been employed have had, on average, less positive organizational conditions than the schools where White teachers are more likely to work, resulting in disproportionate losses of minority teachers. The organizational conditions most strongly related to minority teacher turnover were the level of collective faculty decision-making influence and the degree of individual classroom autonomy held by teachers; these factors were more significant than were salary, professional development or classroom resources. Schools allowing more autonomy for teachers in regard to classroom issues and schools with higher levels of faculty input into school-wide decisions had far lower levels of turnover.