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Educator labor markets

Shirin A. Hashim, Mary E. Laski.

Researchers have posited various theories to explain supposed declines in teaching quality: the expansion of labor market opportunities for women, low relative wages, compressed compensation structures, and substituting quantity for quality. We synthesize these previous theories and expand on the current literature by incorporating a useful comparison group: the nursing workforce. We document historical trends in skill level, average and relative wages, wage dispersion, unionization rates, and quantity, and find important divergences in the teaching and nursing professions that cannot be explained by previous theories. We posit two new theories that align with our documented trends: technological innovation and occupational differentiation in nursing. We argue that trends in the nursing profession indicate that declines in teaching quality were (and are) not inevitable.

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Stephen Mirabello, Rylie C. Martin, Christopher R. Marsicano.

Labor organization efforts grew following the pandemic in the United States at tech companies, automakers, and even higher education institutions. This brief examines unionization trends at private colleges and universities from 2007 to 2023, revealing staff as the main force behind unionization attempts, followed by contingent faculty. Major unions like the SEIU and the AFL-CIO play significant roles in representing college and university employees. This study underscores the importance of understanding historic unionization efforts, shedding light on often overlooked staff categories like maintenance and security.

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David Blazar, Wenjing Gao, Seth Gershenson, Ramon Goings, Francisco Lagos.

Local teacher recruitment through “grow-your-own” programs is a prominent strategy to address workforce shortages and ensure that incoming teachers resemble, understand, and have strong connections to their communities. We exploit the staggered rollout of the Teacher Academy of Maryland career and technical education certificate program across public high schools, finding that exposed students were more likely to become teachers by 0.6 percentage points (pp), or 47%. Effects are concentrated among White girls (1.4pp/39%) and Black girls (0.7pp/80%). We also identify positive impacts on wages (5% on average/18% for Black girls), countering a prevailing narrative that teaching leaves one worse off financially relative to other labor market opportunities.

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Michael Bates, Andrew C. Johnston.

Why do employers offer pensions? We empirically explore two theoretical rationales, namely that pensions may improve worker effort and worker selection. We examine these hypotheses using administrative measures on effort and output in public schools around the pension-eligibility notch. Worker effort and output do not fall as workers cross the eligibility threshold, implying that pensions may not elicit additional effort. As for selection, we find that pensions retain low-value-added and high-value-added workers at the same rate, suggesting pensions have little or no influence on selection.

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Mary E. Laski.

Teacher shortages are a persistent challenge in the United States. I evaluate the effectiveness of an innovative pilot program that allowed principals to hand-select experienced staff members and paraeducators already working in schools to lead classrooms. Pilot educators are predominantly Black or African American. Districts reported randomly assigning students to teachers, and my analysis cannot reject randomization. Controlling for demographics and baseline scores, I find that students assigned to these pilot teachers perform just as well as those assigned to traditionally licensed teachers on average and outperform their peers in math. My results point to an untapped resource of potential teachers and underscore the value of principals’ local knowledge to identify capable candidates for teaching positions.

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Kristen Shure, Zach Weingarten.

Many decentralized matching markets experience high rates of instability due to information frictions. This paper analyzes these frictions in a particularly unstable U.S. market, the labor market for first-year school teachers. We develop and estimate a dynamic, partial equilibrium model of labor mobility that incorporates non-pecuniary information frictions for school climate and teacher workload. In terms of reducing turnover, a policy that improves information outperforms each alternative considered, including targeted wage premiums at hard-to-staff schools, large retention bonuses, and relaxed tenure requirements. Replicating the gains made through information revelation requires retention bonuses valued at 35% of teachers’ current salaries.

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David Blazar, Max Anthenelli, Wenjing Gao, Ramon Goings, Seth Gershenson.

Mounting evidence supporting the advantages of a diverse teacher workforce prompts policymakers to scrutinize existing recruitment pathways. Following four cohorts of Maryland public high-school students over 12 years reveals several insights. Early barriers require timely interventions, aiding students of color in achieving educational milestones that are prerequisites for teacher candidacy (high school graduation, college enrollment). While alternative pathways that bypass traditional undergraduate teacher preparation may help, current approaches still show persistent racial disparities. Data simulations underscore the need for race-conscious policies specifically targeting or differentially benefiting students of color, as race-neutral strategies have minimal impact. Ultimately, multiple race-conscious policy solutions addressing various educational milestones must demonstrate significant effectsapproximately 30% increasesto reshape the teacher workforce to align with student body demographics.

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Maxwell J. Cook, Cory Koedel, Michael Reda.

We estimate the education and earnings returns to enrolling in technical two-year degree programs at community colleges in Missouri. A unique feature of the Missouri context is the presence of a highly regarded, nationally ranked technical college: State Technical College of Missouri (State Tech). We find that enrolling in a technical program in Missouri increases the likelihood of associate degree attainment and post-enrollment earnings, but that the positive effects statewide are driven largely by students who attend State Tech. These findings demonstrate the potential for a high-performing community college to change students’ education and labor market trajectories. At the same time, they exemplify the potential for substantial institutional heterogeneity in the returns to postsecondary education.

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Matthew A. Kraft, Melissa Arnold Lyon.

We examine the state of the U.S. K-12 teaching profession over the last half century by compiling nationally representative time-series data on four interrelated constructs: occupational prestige, interest among students, the number of individuals preparing for entry, and on-the-job satisfaction. We find a consistent and dynamic pattern across every measure: a rapid decline in the 1970s, a swift rise in the 1980s extending into the mid 1990s, relative stability, and then a sustained decline beginning around 2010. The current state of the teaching profession is at or near its lowest levels in 50 years. We identify and explore a range of hypotheses that might explain these historical patterns including economic and sociopolitical factors, education policies, and school environments.

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Arielle Boguslav.

Despite the common title of “coach,” definitions of high-quality coaching vary tremendously across models and programs. Yet, few studies make comparisons across different models to understand what is most helpful, for whom, and under what circumstances. As a result, practitioners are left with many options and little evidence-based direction. This is exacerbated by the literature’s focus on more abstract features of coaching practice (e.g. building trust), leaving practitioners to figure out what concrete discourse strategies support these goals. This paper begins to address these challenges by introducing a taxonomy of coaching “moves,” parsing the concrete details of coach discourse. While the taxonomy is informed by the literature, it highlights conceptual possibilities rather than providing a list of empirically-grounded or “evidence-based” strategies. In doing so, this taxonomy may serve as a common language to guide future work exploring how coach discourse shapes teacher development, synthesizing across studies, and supporting coach practice.

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