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Educator labor markets

Dorottya Demszky, Jing Liu, Heather C. Hill, Shyamoli Sanghi, Ariel Chung.

While recent studies have demonstrated the potential of automated feedback to enhance teacher instruction in virtual settings, its efficacy in traditional classrooms remains unexplored. In collaboration with TeachFX, we conducted a pre-registered randomized controlled trial involving 523 Utah mathematics and science teachers to assess the impact of automated feedback in K-12 classrooms. This feedback targeted “focusing questions” – questions that probe students’ thinking by pressing for explanations and reflection. Our findings indicate that automated feedback increased teachers’ use of focusing questions by 20%. However, there was no discernible effect on other teaching practices. Qualitative interviews revealed mixed engagement with the automated feedback: some teachers noticed and appreciated the reflective insights from the feedback, while others had no knowledge of it. Teachers also expressed skepticism about the accuracy of feedback, concerns about data security, and/or noted that time constraints prevented their engagement with the feedback. Our findings highlight avenues for future work, including integrating this feedback into existing professional development activities to maximize its effect.

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Zid Mancenido, Heather C. Hill, Jeannette Garcia Coppersmith, Hannah Carter, Cynthia Pollard, Chris Monschauer.

Practice-based teacher education has increasingly been adopted as an alternative to more traditional, conceptually-focused pedagogies, yet the field lacks causal evidence regarding the relative efficacy of these approaches. To address this issue, we randomly assigned 185 college students to one of three experimental conditions reflective of common conceptually-focused and practice-based teacher preparation pedagogies. We find significant and large positive effects of practice-based pedagogies on participants’ skills in eliciting and responding to student thinking as demonstrated through a written assessment and a short teaching episode. Our findings contribute to a developing evidence base that can assist policymakers and teacher educators in designing effective teacher preparation at scale.

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Tuan D. Nguyen, Walt Ecton, Andrew Diemer, Cameron Anglum.

Though Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers are pivotal to students’ academic and career outcomes, research describing CTE teachers remains scant. In this study, we use nationally-representative data to describe changes in the nation’s CTE teacher workforce during a period of significant policy changes. Today’s CTE teachers are more frequently credentialed and more racially and ethnically diverse than in the past, though still less diverse than non-CTE teachers and far less diverse than the nation’s students. Women now comprise a majority, diversifying a historically male-dominated field. CTE teachers turn over at rates similar to the general teacher workforce, though novice teachers are more likely to turn over. We conclude by recommending future avenues of CTE teacher research and policy development.

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Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Olivia L. Chi, Ariel Tichnor-Wagner, Sidrah Baloch.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted teacher candidates’ capacity to complete licensure requirements. In response, many states temporarily reduced professional entry requirements to prevent a pandemic-induced teacher shortage. Using mixed methods, we examine the role of the emergency teaching license in Massachusetts, which provided an opportunity for individuals to enter the public school teacher workforce with only a bachelor’s degree. Our results show that emergency licenses increased the supply of teachers in two ways by: 1) providing an entry point for individuals who previously wanted to become teachers but could not meet traditional licensure requirements and 2) expanding the pool of individuals interested in the profession. Among those teachers hired with an emergency license, we find that they were substantially more ethnoracially diverse than their peers with traditional licenses, and they overwhelmingly intend to obtain permanent licensure and remain in the profession. These results suggest that rethinking initial entry requirements may be an effective policy tool to increase the supply of teachers, particularly among teachers of color.

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Andreas de Barros.

Explaining the productivity paradox—the phenomenon where an introduction of information and communication technology (ICT) does not lead to improvements in labor productivity—is difficult, as changes in technology often coincide with adjustments to working hours and substitution of labor. I conduct a cluster-randomized trial in India to investigate the effects of a program that provides teachers with continuous training and materials, encouraging them to blend their instruction with high-quality videos. Teaching hours, teacher-to-student assignments, and the curriculum are held constant. Eleven months after its launch, I document negative effects on student learning in grades 9 and 10 in mathematics, and no effects in science. I also find detrimental effects on instructional quality, instructional practices, and student perceptions and attitudes towards mathematics and science. These findings suggest adjustment costs can serve as one explanation for the paradox.

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Brendan Bartanen, Courtney Bell, Jessalynn James, Eric S. Taylor, James H. Wyckoff.

Novice teachers improve substantially in their first years on the job, but we know remarkably little about the nature of this skill development. Using data from Tennessee, we leverage a feature of the classroom observation protocol that asks school administrators to identify an item on which the teacher should focus their improvement efforts. This “area of refinement” overcomes a key measurement challenge endemic to inferring from classroom observation scores the development of specific teaching skills. We show that administrators disproportionately identify two teaching skills when observing novice teachers: classroom management and presenting content. Struggling with classroom management, in particular, is linked to high rates of novice teacher attrition. Among those who remain, we observe subsequent improvement in these skills.

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Nhu Nguyen, Ben Ost, Javaeria Qureshi.

We document that recent generations of elementary school teachers are significantly more effective in raising student test scores than those from earlier generations. Measuring teachers’ value-added for Black and white students separately, the improvements in teaching for Black students are significantly larger than those seen for white students. The race-specific improvements in teacher quality are driven by white teachers. Analyses of mechanisms suggest that changing teachers’ biases may be one potential channel. Our results suggest reason for optimism since these teacher quality differences should lead to improved student learning and a narrowing of the Black-white test score gap over time.

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Christopher Redding, Tuan D. Nguyen.

With a goal of contextualizing teacher job dissatisfaction during the first full school year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we contrast teachers’ experiences to the decade and a half leading up to the pandemic. We draw on nationally representative data from the Schools and Staffing Survey and National Teacher and Principal Survey from the 2003-04 to 2020-21 school years. Through descriptive and regression analysis, we show that (1) teacher dissatisfaction has gradually been increasing over time, but did not decrease sharply in the 2020-21 school year, (2) levels of dissatisfaction during the pandemic were not equal across subpopulations of teachers or over time, and (3) positive working conditions consistently predicted lower job dissatisfaction, including in the 2020-21 school year.

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Naomi L. Blaushild, Claire Mackevicius, Cora Wigger.

Research shows that teachers seek out jobs close to home, but previous studies have been unable to test whether proximity to home is related to retention in the teaching profession. We leverage a unique dataset from Teach For America (TFA) linking individuals’ preferred teaching locations, actual teaching locations, and years in teaching for 7 years after entering the profession. By controlling for a detailed set of background, preference, and teaching assignment variables through a matched fixed effects design, we find that individuals who were assigned to a TFA region in their home state taught, on average, for .15 years longer than those who were not assigned to teach in their home state. This effect is strongest for teachers of color and those from a low-income background. Being assigned to teach in one’s home state is associated with .36 more years in teaching for those from low-income backgrounds and .47 more years in teaching for teachers of color. Both sub-groups are approximately 8 percentage points more likely to stay in teaching for 7 or more years if assigned to their home state. Overall, this study provides evidence of a positive home state effect on teacher retention. Our results lend support for policies and programs that recruit from or nudge teachers toward teaching in their home states, particularly through alternative certification pathways, and as a means to increase teacher diversity.

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Lauren Sartain, Elc Estrera.

Amid heightened concerns of teacher shortages, we document the role of principals in shaping teachers’ labor market decisions. Using teacher transfer applications from a large urban school district, we find that teachers are most likely to seek transfer away from schools with less-experienced principals and weaker leadership. The qualities of principals that attract applicants are survey reports of strong leadership, applicant-principal demographic congruence, and especially having worked with the principal previously. Ultimately, schools with high rates of teacher transfer seeking and exit receive few applications per teacher vacancy. These schools are likely to have shallow applicant pools and may need district support with recruitment in the short term, with the longer-term goal of developing leaders who retain teachers.

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