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Teacher Supply, Demand, Shortages & Turnover

Teacher shortages have posed a serious problem in K–12 education for the past century. Beginning in the late 1990s, Professor Ingersoll embarked on research that revealed that the longstanding conventional wisdom on teacher shortages has produced a wrong diagnosis and a wrong set of prescriptions. He found that teacher staffing problems do not stem primarily from an insufficient supply of qualified teachers caused by teacher retirements and rising student enrollments, as is widely believed. Rather, school staffing difficulties arise primarily from a “revolving door” syndrome, in which large numbers of qualified teachers depart their jobs for reasons other than retirement—reasons often directly connected to teachers’ working conditions and the way schools are organized and managed. His findings demonstrated that a focus on teacher recruitment—the dominant practice for decades—would not solve the staffing crisis on its own. The problem called for a robust effort to improve teacher retention.

Professor Ingersoll summarized this initial research in a 2001 article in the American Educational Research Journal. The article has been cited more than 5,000 times and downloaded more than 28,000 times from the University of Pennsylvania’s Scholarly Commons website. In subsequent research, Professor Ingersoll and colleagues Henry May and David Perda focused particularly on the math and science teacher shortage and how various factors, such as school conditions and preservice teacher preparation, influence teacher turnover. Collectively, Professor Ingersoll’s publications on shortages and turnover have been cited almost 15,600 times and downloaded 71,000 times.

Major media outlets such as Education Week, The Atlantic, PBS, and Science magazine have reported on this research, and Professor Ingersoll has presented his findings to a wide variety of audiences, including researchers, educators, school leaders, policymakers, and the public.

These research findings have also figured prominently in high-profile education reports from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, the National Retired Teachers Association, the National Education Association, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality, the Southern Regional Educational Board, the National Science Teachers Association, the California Math Project, and the Center for American Progress.

This research holds interest for legislators and policymakers. The National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century commissioned Professor Ingersoll to write a paper summarizing his research on turnover among math and science teachers. He presented this research to the Science and the Congress Briefing, co-chaired by Representatives Vernon Ehlers and Rush Holt and Senators James Jeffords and Joseph Lieberman. He also reported on this research as part of a series of seminars for new members of Congress, sponsored by the U.S. House of Representatives. President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology made extensive use of his work. Professor Ingersoll has testified and presented this research before the Education Committee of the Council of the City of New York, the Campaign for Human Capital of the School District of the City of Philadelphia, and official education commissions and forums in numerous states, including Ohio, Arizona, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Indiana, Georgia, Virginia, Texas, Florida, South Carolina, and Montana.

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