The Local Teacher Shortage
An Investigation into Varying Degrees of Labor Shortages by Region
Key Finding: Although the teacher shortage is felt nationally, the magnitude of its impact varies depending on geographical region.
In the fall of 2022, the Frontline Research and Learning Institute published a two-part series detailing national trends in K-12 hiring. The second part of the series titled, The State of the Instructional Teacher Shortage, reported that supply, defined as the number of job seekers who applied to a job posting, rather than demand, defined as the number of open positions resulting from current employees leaving the profession, is the primary driver of the current K-12 instructional staff shortage. Since that publication, the teacher shortage persists in mainstream news headlines suggesting that the impact to K-12 hiring across the nation is ongoing.
More recently, K-12 education researchers have acknowledged the nuanced nature of the labor shortage and have begun to examine it through a multi-layered lens. Previously, a majority of conversations have analyzed the shortage at the macro level and presented it as a universal, national situation. However, new research points to the merits of micro level analysis, suggesting that it may manifest differently depending on the geographical region and/or state in which it occurs.
The findings of these analyses suggest that the severity of the teacher shortage may depend on local rather than national factors. This research brief aims to analyze teacher shortage trends in the same manner as previous Frontline Research & Learning Institute research: exploring the relationships between K-12 teacher candidate supply and demand over time. However, it compares these trends at the regional instead of national level to provide a more detailed account of a complex, locale-dependent experience.
The Frontline Research & Learning Institute has a uniquely robust set of K-12 hiring data. This current paper refined the sample of American school districts beyond samples used in previous publications to maximize accuracy and applicability of the data. The data used for these analyses comes from a longitudinal dataset. All districts whose data is included in the sample have been users of Frontline’s Recruiting and Hiring solution from 2018 to 2022. Thus, any changes in trends reported are the result of differences occurring within a nonchanging sample rather than the result of a changing number of solution users.
The job posting data reported in this research brief includes all job postings for teaching positions that were made publicly available to external candidates using the Frontline Recruiting and Hiring solution. The applicant data includes all applicants who submitted an application to a teacher job posting in Frontline’s Recruiting and Hiring Solution within 30 days of its creation. In all, this Frontline Research & Learning Institute data sample includes over 1,100 districts in every U.S. state but Hawaii. Districts included in the sample range in sizes and locales as defined by the National Center for Education Statistics.
We divided the 49 states that are represented in the data into six regions. They are defined as follows;
Analysis and Findings
Similar to previous Frontline Research & Learning Institute publications, we investigated the quantities of job applicants (supply) and job postings (demand) to investigate how the impact of the teacher shortage may vary in six different geographical regions within the United States from 2018 to 2022.
First, we examined trends in the number of job postings per district over the five-year period. Job postings per district was calculated by dividing the total number of job postings by the number of districts that posted them.
In the Central region, the number of job postings remained consistent with the exception of the months immediately following the Covid-19 lockdowns in early to mid-2020, whereas job posting trends in districts in the Mid-Atlantic region saw inconsistent highs and lows over the five-year period. Further, the number of job postings in the Mid-Atlantic region are higher in the past two years than in previous years.
Like the Mid-Atlantic region, the Northeast also saw an increase in the number of job postings in the last two years than in years prior. In the South, there was a clear increase in the number of postings per district in early 2022 which is the only obvious difference in job posting trends over time in that region.
Like the South region, there is a clear increase in the number of postings per district in early 2022 in both the Southeast and West regions. Aside from that time period, the trends in postings per district stayed relatively consistent over time in the West region.
Average Number of Teacher Job Postings Per District
That data shows that the average district in some regions experienced increases in job postings last year compared to previous years. This may suggest that districts within those regions are posting more teaching positions in order to backfill the positions of teachers who chose to leave the profession. It could also be indicative of how districts within those regions have utilized Covid-relief funds: to create new teaching positions. Each region saw its highest number of job postings per district in 2022 compared to prior years.
The Central, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast regions saw an increase of about two postings per district annually in 2022 compared to the year prior, while districts in the South, Southeast, and West saw an increase of about 28 posting per district annually. Whatever the causes of the increase, the “demand” side of the teacher shortage appears to have had a larger impact in the South, Southeast, and West regions than in the Central, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast regions.
Next, we examined trends in the number of applicants per posting over the five-year period. Number of applicants per posting was calculated by dividing the total number of applicants by the number of postings that were applied to.
Both the Central and Mid-Atlantic regions have clear decreases in the number of applications per posting year over year, particularly in 2021 and 2022.
Like the Central and Mid-Atlantic regions, the Northeast region has a clear decrease in applications per posting year over year. However, the decrease is much less drastic in the South. The only obvious decrease in the South occurred in early and late 2022.
The Southeast region resembles the South region; relative consistency month to month, year over year, with the exception of 2022. The West region has no obvious deviations in the number of applications per posting across the years.
Average Number of Applications Per Teacher Job Posting
For all six regions, 2022 saw the fewest number of applications per posting. However, the largest declines occurred in the Central, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and South regions. These regions saw decreases of between four and seven applications per posting compared to their respective four-year annual high. While there were decreases in 2022 in the Southeast and West regions, the decline range was between one and two applications per posting compared to their respective four-year annual high.
While the teacher shortage has been widely investigated at the national level, it has only just begun to be analyzed and discussed on a smaller scale. This research brief contends that there is value in doing so, as its findings suggest that it manifests differently in different regions across the US.
For instance, while the demand for teachers is not increasing in the average district in the Central region, there are dramatic decreases in the number of applications per job posting. While this trend mirrors the national narrative that the teacher shortage is largely attributed to a dwindling supply of teacher candidates, the same metrics in different locales tell a different story.
The average district in the South region saw increases in demand for new teachers, but unlike the national narrative, they did not experience a drastic dip in supply. The findings here indicate that efforts to combat teacher shortages must also vary by region to best fit the needs of districts within them. Further, a recent publication from researchers at Brown University suggests that teacher shortage impacts differ district to district and even school to school within districts.
How to Take Action
There are many factors that may contribute to the impact that the labor shortage has on your organization. While data from the Frontline Research & Learning Institute suggests that geographical location may be one, it’s important to better understand your own organization and its practices to mitigate any effects that you may be experiencing. Here’s how:
Use technology to access your organization’s data and turn it into actionable insights.
Keep track of key metrics, identify trends, make data-based decisions, celebrate progress, and maximize organizational efficiency.
Looking at your organization’s historical job posting and applicant data can provide useful insights, like when the job market in your area is most saturated. This can help inform decisions including when to launch recruiting and hiring efforts.
Use technology to do more with less and improve your employee-experience lifecycle.
Evaluate your current recruiting and hiring practices and tailor them to match modern-day employees’ needs and preferences.
In a weak job market, recruiting needs to be a year-round effort. Automating recruiting and hiring can save your organization the time and administrative burden required by manual recruitment processes, and it appeals more to the 21st-century teacher. Document recruiting efforts online, analyze your organization’s hiring data, compare it to other educational organizations, and instantly communicate with job seekers.
Use technology to manage teacher professional growth and retain high-quality teachers.
Know your teachers’ goals and help them succeed by providing targeted professional learning opportunities, transparent evaluation processes, and stronger links between goals, learning, and evaluation.
Professional growth results in teacher learning and retention when it’s ongoing, continuous, and individualized to meet teachers’ diverse needs. An online system can help teachers and administrators set individual and district goals and track progress as they work to achieve them over time.
It can help teachers and administrators locate specific online or in-person learning opportunities to help them reach their goals, provide a virtual space for teachers with shared goals to log in anywhere and at any time to learn together. It can increase the transparency of the evaluation process and enable administrators to recommend professional learning opportunities aligned to teachers’ ongoing plans and goals.
- USA Today, Alia Wong (December 21, 2022). Overworked, underpaid? The tool of burnout is contributing to teacher shortages nationwide.
- The New York Times, Opinion (December 14, 2022). There’s a reason there aren’t enough teachers in America. Many reasons, actually.
- K-12 Dive, Anna Merod (January 30, 2023). Teacher shortage shows signs of worsening in several states.
- EdWeek, Madeline Will (September 6, 2022). How bad is the teacher shortage? Here’s what two new studies say.
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