TQB: Teacher Quality Bulletin

Who are today’s teachers?

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Some noteworthy findings from Richard Ingersoll and his colleagues in the recent examination of how the teaching workforce has changed in the last thirty years:

  • There are a lot more teachers: This may come as a surprise, given concerns about teacher shortages and teacher turnover. The researchers find that the workforce has grown by 64 percent – more than three times the rate of increase in the student population, including a sharp uptick in the last few years (after a small decline during the Great Recession).
  • There are a lot more STEM teachers: Since 1988, the number of math and science teachers has almost doubled! These teachers are responsible for 18 percent of the overall growth of the workforce in public schools.
  • Teachers' academic abilities haven't improved - and may have declined: As of a decade ago (using the most recent data available from the NCES Baccalaureate and Beyond study), education majors tended to have among the lowest SAT and ACT scores of any major. Data extending into 2016 find that first-year teachers disproportionately attend less selective institutions. On average, a quarter come from less selective institutions, but that proportion has grown in the last few years.
  • Still no straight scoop on teacher turnover: As in previous iterations, Ingersoll et al. report that nearly half of all teaches leave the classroom in the first five years. We'd have loved an attempt to reconcile those findings (derived from the federal Baccalaureate and Beyond survey) with those from the federal Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study. The latter study finds only 17 percent of teachers left in their first four years.