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Talk Data to Me: Hiring Trends in the Wake of a Teacher Shortage

Recruiting & Hiring

The teacher shortage has gained a lot of attention over the past few weeks. National news, local news, and even President Biden have all addressed the topic in recent weeks. According to a survey conducted by Frontline Education, two-thirds of nearly 1,200 school and district leaders across the country reported having a teacher shortage.

A teacher shortage would cause enough problems for districts trying to fill vacancies in a normal year, but the pandemic appears to have exacerbated this struggle. Some reports indicate that as many as 1 in 4 current teachers plan on leaving the profession in a wave of retirements or quitting the profession for other endeavors.

What can we learn about these troubling trends from hiring data? The Frontline Research & Learning Institute and data from Frontline Education’s Recruiting & Hiring solution — which is representative of national district norms — provide an in-depth look at hiring trends over time.

Are school districts posting more jobs in 2021?

Chart 1 shows the number of Teacher Job Postings per District over the past three years. A trove of teachers leaving the profession should translate into districts having to post more jobs than usual, but as Chart 1 shows, that is not the case thus far. The number of job postings per district this year tracks steadily alongside previous years.

Are schools struggling to find applicants for open positions?

The teacher shortage would most clearly manifest itself in the data in low numbers of applicants per job posting — and indeed, you can see fewer applicants per posting in 2021 than in previous years in Chart 2 below.

In prior years, each job posting received an average of 7.8 applicants. However, job postings in 2021 are receiving fewer than 6 applicants on average thus far.

Collectively, this translates to a 12.5% decrease in applicants per district in January-July 2021 compared to January-July 2020 and a 31.6% decrease in January-July 2021 compared to January-July 2019.

Chart 2:

What does it all mean?

If teachers are choosing to leave the profession at higher rates than years past as has been predicted throughout the pandemic, we should expect to see an increase in teacher job postings aimed at filling those vacancies. However, this isn’t reflected in the trends in Chart 1.

Does this mean that teachers are not retiring (or otherwise exiting the profession) at the rates that have been commonly feared? Maybe, maybe not. The consistency of the trends in Chart 1 suggests it would be reasonable to expect the number of job postings to fall for the remainder of the year, but it’s also possible that districts are awaiting approval for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund and ARP funding proposals that include new positions. If that’s the case, job postings could track higher than in years past, and in a year where already fewer applicants are vying for jobs as Chart 2 shows, the teacher shortage may intensify.

Additional Resources

    1. The Teacher Shortage, 2021 Edition: See results from Frontline’s survey of nearly 1,200 district administrators on the impact of the teacher shortage.
    2. Retention-First Recruitment: With fewer teachers entering the profession, retention is more important than ever. Here’s how Curriculum & Instruction and HR can work together to attract — and keep — great teachers.
    3. Talk Data to Me: For earlier data on recruiting and hiring trends during COVID-19, see here and here.
    4. Pro Tips: Finance and Funding for K-12 Public Schools: A review of federal, state, and local education funding categories.
    5. Supporting the Health Needs of Students and Staff: Resources on supporting the mental and physical health needs of students and staff for a safe reopening of schools.

Kevin Agnello

Kevin is a Data Analytics Engineer for Frontline Education. He is a former high school mathematics teacher and holds a Master's Degree in Educational Curriculum and Instruction, a Master's Degree in Educational Psychology, and is working on a dissertation toward a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.