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Educator labor markets

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Sarah Guthery, Kathryn Dixon.

We use frame analysis to analyze the first iteration of the Texas District of Innovation policy, which allows districts to take exemption from state education requirements mandating the hiring of a state certified teacher. We analyzed 451 district policies and find the plans use very similar, and sometimes identical, language to frame both the problem of teacher shortage and their proposed solutions, even though the districts may be geographically and demographically different. The districts most often propose two solutions to the certified teacher shortage, 1) flexibility and 2) local control over teacher certification decisions, including hiring unlicensed teachers and locally certified teachers.

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Brendan Bartanen, Aliza N. Husain, David D. Liebowitz, Laura K. Rogers.

Despite increasing recognition of the importance of high-quality school leadership, we know remarkably little about principal skill development. Using administrative data from Tennessee, Oregon, and New York City, we estimate the returns to principal experience as measured by student outcomes, teacher hiring and retention patterns, and teacher and supervisor ratings of principals. The typical principal leads a school for only 3–5 years and leaves the principalship after 6–7 years. We find little evidence that school performance improves as principals gain experience, despite substantial improvement in supervisor ratings. Our results suggest that strategies intended to increase principal retention are unlikely to improve school outcomes absent more comprehensive efforts to strengthen the link between principal skill development and student and school outcomes.

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David Blazar, Danett Song, Ramon Goings, Jay Plasman, Michael Gottfried.

Despite substantial interest in Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses in U.S. high schools—and associated scholarship on this topic—very little is known about characteristics of CTE teachers who are a critical resource for program implementation and expansion. Using eight years of statewide data from Maryland, we document key facts about the CTE teacher workforce and pathways into the profession. First, a sizable share (17%) of CTE teachers enter the profession with a high school diploma or associate’s degree, aligned to state policy that allows Professional and Technical Education-certified teachers to substitute years of professional experience for higher degrees. Relatedly, CTE teachers are substantially more likely than non-CTE teachers to enter the profession through an “alternative” path that bypasses traditional undergraduate teacher education (54% versus 30%). Finally, there is a larger share of Black teachers in CTE versus out of CTE (25% versus 16%), leading to greater opportunities for teacher-student race matching. We hypothesize that these patterns are related: decreased barriers to entry into the CTE teaching profession may support more Black individuals to become CTE teachers.

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Gema Zamarro, Andrew Camp, Josh McGee, Taylor Wilson, Miranda Vernon.

Attracting and retaining high-quality teachers is a pressing policy concern. Increasing teacher salaries and creating more attractive compensation packages are often proposed as a potential solution. Signed into law in March 2023, the LEARNS Act increased Arkansas's minimum teacher salary from $36,000 to $50,000, guaranteed all teachers a minimum raise of $2,000, and added flexibility allowing school districts to deviate from seniority-based traditional salary schedules. To study school districts’ adjustments to the new legislation, we collected information about districts' teacher compensation policies one year before and the first year of implementation. We also integrated this data with teachers' administrative records to study patterns of teacher retention and mobility. Our results reveal a more equitable distribution of starting teacher salaries across districts, with minimal variation. The LEARNS Act notably increased funding for rural and high-poverty districts, mitigating the negative association between starting salaries and district poverty rates. However, the initial effects on teacher retention and mobility were modest. While some positive trends emerged, such as reduced probabilities of teachers transitioning to non-instructional roles and increased new teacher placement in geographic areas of shortage, broader impacts on retention and mobility were limited in the first year of implementation.

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Andrew Camp.

The four-day school week is a school calendar that has become increasingly common following the COVID-19 pandemic. Proponents of the calendar often claim that offering teachers a regular 3-day weekend will help schools better retain existing teachers and recruit new teachers to their district without incurring additional costs due to higher salaries or other pecuniary benefits. However, there is scant empirical evidence assessing these claims. I use difference-in-differences and synthetic difference-in-differences models to assess the impact of four-day school week calendars on teacher retention and teacher quality in Arkansas. I find evidence that the calendar may help retain teachers who otherwise would have moved to another school and suggestive evidence that retention in non-adopting schools may be harmed by the four-day school week adoption in nearby districts. Results examining changes in teacher quality are inconclusive. These results have significant implications given the rapid growth in four-day school week calendars in recent years.

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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. When workers cross the notch their effective compensation falls significantly, but we observe no reduction in worker effort and output. This implies that pension payments do not increase 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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