Solving the Equation: Recruiting, Hiring, and Retaining Math and Science Teachers

PI: Susanna Loeb (Stanford University)
CO-PIsEmily Penner (UCI), Andrew Penner (UCI), Thad Domina (UNC), Sonya Porter (US Census Bureau), Quentin Brummet (US Census Bureau)

Funder: National Science Foundation: Directorate of Interdisciplinary Behavioral and Social Science Research

Duration: 2016-2019

Project Summary

Using novel administrative data and cutting-edge statistical methods, this project will advance knowledge on the dynamics of STEM teacher recruitment, hiring, and retention in the midst of competitive labor and housing markets. Training the next generation of scientists and engineers is one of the most pressing problems our nation faces, and the changing global labor market presents a two-sided challenge to U.S. public schools. As the demand for workers with advanced training in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) increases, educational institutions at all levels must provide high-quality and rigorous STEM education to an ever-larger number of students. To do so, schools must hire and retain a corps of highly educated and skilled science and mathematics teachers. But the same market forces that necessitate improvements in the American STEM education system place fundamental constraints on schools’ abilities to hire and retain STEM teachers, as schools struggle to compete with the relatively high-paying private sector labor market to hire and retain individuals with strong STEM skills as teachers.

Examining the pipeline for STEM teachers will provide insights into how labor markets work more broadly. The processes involved in matching individuals looking for work and employers looking for workers are a core concern in the social sciences, and this project will provide information on a central and largely elusive question: Who does and does not apply to a particular job? Further, this project contributes to the literature on teacher labor markets by providing a rich portrait of where teachers go when they leave teaching, focusing particularly on the potential pressures that schools face in retaining highly effective STEM teachers. Growing teacher shortages, accelerating retirement rates, and declining enrollments in teacher preparation programs represent mounting challenges facing school districts, and these challenges are particularly pronounced in recruiting high-quality STEM teachers to low-income schools. The findings from this project will thus inform policy by providing a better understanding of the challenges associated with recruiting and retaining highly effective STEM teachers. Results will be actively disseminated to policy makers and practitioners in school districts and beyond. This project will also support the training of graduate students in the use of large-scale administrative data, as graduate students will be actively involved in all aspects of the project.