The good news: young teachers are more academically prepared than those who entered education 15 years ago. But the racial mismatch persists between them and their students.
Teacher turnover long has been a conundrum in education, where half of new recruits leave the profession in their first five years, particularly those working in high-poverty, urban schools.
But that well-established trend may be reversing direction.
Analyzing data from nearly 3,000 recent teacher hires teachers across the country, researchers at the University of Washington, Stanford University and the Rand Corporation found the profession is attracting applicants with higher test scores, who report much greater job satisfaction than those entering the classroom 15 years ago — especially in cities.
The flip side is that these better-prepared recruits are most often white. And when teachers of color do get hired, they are 40 percent less likely to be happy with their jobs, compared with other educators.
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“It’s a strong message,” said Min Sun, one of the study’s co-authors, a professor at the UW College of Education. “We’re not entirely sure what’s driving the dissatisfaction of minority teachers, but they’re often placed in quite difficult working conditions.”
Sun cited this pattern as a particular concern since the mismatch between Washington’s mostly-white teaching force and its increasingly diverse student body is thought to be a factor in the widening performance gap between minority and white students.
The data — culled from questions put to a representative sample of educators from across the country — cover three distinct periods: 1993, the early 2000s dot-com boom, and 2008, when the Great Recession began.
The economic context, more than any specific education policy, appeared to drive job-satisfaction patterns, Sun said.
The youngest teachers studied — those who graduated from education programs eight years ago — had the highest SAT and ACT scores and reported the greatest job satisfaction of any group.
Academic performance was lowest for those who graduated in 2000 and began teaching during the tech boom. These educators ranked in the 39th percentile for average math scores on the SAT/ACT exam, versus those who entered teaching in 2008 and logged in at the 46th percentile.
The researchers also compared teachers working in public and private academies. In 1993, those in private elementary schools reported test scores that were four percentage points higher, on average.
But by 2008, public school teachers for young children had caught up and surpassed their private school counterparts.
These gains evaporated, however, among public school educators working with older students.