Attracting Effective Teachers May Require New Strategies

Oct 14, 2013

Credit Bart Everson, Flickr Creative Commons.

When teachers apply for jobs, a new study reveals many apply to higher-achieving schools, leaving high-needs schools to draw from a smaller pool of applicants. 

Vanderbilt Assistant Professor Mimi Engle’s says it’s not a new concept, but it is the first time research has documented how teachers apply to schools.  Engel used Chicago Public Schools to test her theory. She found when school districts hire for an entire school system, prospective teachers tend to gravitate to higher-achieving schools, leaving disadvantaged schools struggling to fill spots.

"So the worry is that with district level policy that doesn’t target high-needs schools, you’re going to reinforce those inequalities and continue to have a very disproportional number of applicants to the schools that are considered more desirable by many teachers," she says.

Engle says she hopes the research leads large districts to examine new strategies, like teacher residency and new recruitment programs may help districts balance teacher applicant distribution.

"By having fewer applicants to high needs schools and tons and tons of applicants in more advantaged schools serving kids who come from more privileged backgrounds, we’re reinforcing the inequality that we’re seeing all around us today," she says. 

Engel says the theory might sound like common sense, but now with supporting research behind it, she says she hopes districts take a closer look at how they promote high-needs schools.