Teacher-recruitment problem… or teacher-retention problem?

September 11, 2012 • Ted Kolderie

Twenty years ago the modal American teacher was a teacher in his/her 15th year of teaching.

Today the modal teacher is one in her first year of teaching.

This — stunning — statistic comes from data Richard Ingersoll and his associates have pulled from the Schools and Staffing Survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics.

All this is elaborated in a paper given to the American Education Research Association in 2012, and — in shorter form — in an article in The Kappan.

The American teaching force has “ballooned” in size over the 20 years. After staffing up for the Baby Boom it had begun to shrink in size during the 1970s. But then in the mid-’80s it began to grow again.

Since 1987 the teaching force has grown by 48 percent while the student population has grown by 19 percent. The staffing growth was most rapid in elementary school. Math and science added teachers; art, music and physical education added fewer.

It is probably “her” first year because Ingersoll found that over the past 20 years the teaching force has become more female.

It is also more diverse, racially.

It has become both older and younger. There is a large group of teachers nearing retirement and a large group that has just come into teaching.

This creates a teaching force that is, as Ingersoll puts it, “more unstable”. The flows of people into teaching and out of teaching are both increasing.

The teacher force is not less well-educated than before.

Ingersoll has for years tried to get people to understand that this country does not have a teacher-recruitment problem: It has a teacher-retention problem. Only 14 per cent of those leaving teaching leave at retirement age. Most of those leaving are quitting earlier. Almost half the newly-entering teachers quit within five years.

Ingersoll tries to explain both the ‘why’ of these dramatic changes and the implications of these changes. Look at, think about, what he says about the financial implications; as, more young teachers to pay into the pension systems and lower costs for the districts as veteran teachers leave.