Skip Navigation
archived information
Skip Navigation

Back to Ask A REL Archived Responses

REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

Teacher Recruitment

November 2021


What research or resources are available on trends and changes in the teaching force over the past 15 years (since 2006)?


Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports, literature reviews, and descriptive studies on trends and changes in the teaching force over the past 15 years (since 2006). For details on the databases and sources, key words and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

De Brey, C., Snyder, T. D., Zhang, A., & Dillow, S. A. (2021). Digest of education statistics 2019. 55th edition (NCES 2021-009). National Center for Education Statistics.

From the ERIC abstract: “The 2019 edition of the ‘Digest of Education Statistics’ is the 55th in a series of publications initiated in 1962. The purpose of the ‘Digest’ is to provide a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of American education from prekindergarten through graduate school. It contains data on a variety of topics, including the number of schools and colleges, teachers, enrollments, and graduates, in addition to educational attainment, finances, and federal funds for education, libraries, and international comparisons. Seven chapters are included: (1) All Levels of Education; (2) Elementary and Secondary Education; (3) Postsecondary Education; (4) Federal Funds for Education and Related Activities; (5) Outcomes of Education; (6) International Comparisons of Education; and (7) Libraries and Use of Technology. Each chapter is divided into a number of topical subsections. Preceding the seven chapters is an introduction that provides a brief overview of current trends in American education, which supplements the tabular materials in chapters 1 through 7.”

Domina, T., Lewis, R., Agarwal, P., & Hanselman, P. (2015). Professional sense-makers: Instructional specialists in contemporary schooling. Educational Researcher, 44(6), 359–364.

From the ERIC abstract: “This brief documents the expansion of instructional specialist staffing in U.S. public school districts. We use data from the National Center of Education Statistics’ annual Common Core of Data to chart staffing trends in public school districts between 1997-1998 and 2012-2013. The number of instructional specialists per 1,000 U.S students doubled during that period, and the proportion of districts employing no specialists declined from nearly 20% to 7%. We suggest that specialists are poised to play a pivotal ‘professional sense-making’ role as schools work to implement new instructional standards in the classroom.”

Epstein, D., & Miller, R. T. (2011). Slow off the mark: Elementary school teachers and the crisis in science, technology, engineering, and math education. Center for American Progress.

From the ERIC abstract: “One can’t throw a stone without hitting a STEM initiative these days, but most science, technology, engineering, and math initiatives—thus the STEM acronym—overlook a fundamental problem. In general, the workforce pipeline of elementary school teachers fails to ensure that the teachers who inform children’s early academic trajectories have the appropriate knowledge of and disposition toward math-intensive subjects and mathematics itself. Prospective teachers can typically obtain a license to teach elementary school without taking a rigorous college-level STEM class such as calculus, statistics, or chemistry, and without demonstrating a solid grasp of mathematics knowledge, scientific knowledge, or the nature of scientific inquiry. In this report, the authors focus on the selection and preparation of elementary school teachers, most of whom will be required to teach mathematics and science when they enter the classroom. It is elementary school mathematics and science that lay the foundation for future STEM learning, but it is elementary school teachers who are often unprepared to set students on the path to higher-level success in STEM fields. In order to improve STEM learning, the selection, preparation, and licensure of elementary school teachers must be strengthened. The authors make five specific recommendations in this report: (1) Increase the selectivity of programs that prepare teachers for elementary grades; (2) Implement teacher compensation policies, including performance-based pay, that make elementary teaching more attractive to college graduates and career-changers with strong STEM backgrounds; (3) Include more mathematics and science content and pedagogy in schools of education; (4) Require candidates to pass mathematics and science subsections of licensure exams; and (5) Explore innovative staffing models that extend the reach of elementary level teachers with an affinity for mathematics and science and demonstrated effectiveness in teaching them. As the authors will demonstrate, improving the ability of elementary school teachers to teach the facts, concepts, and procedures critical to success in STEM fields is required if the nation is to succeed in the globally competitive arena of the 21st century.”

García, E., & Weiss, E. (2019). U.S. schools struggle to hire and retain teachers (The second report in “The Perfect Storm in the Teacher Labor Market” series). Economic Policy Institute.

From the ERIC abstract: “This report is the second in a series examining the magnitude of the teacher shortage and the working conditions and other factors that contribute to the shortage. The series finds that the teacher shortage is real, large and growing. When indicators of teacher quality (certification, relevant training, experience, etc.) are taken into account, the shortage is even more acute than currently estimated, with high-poverty schools suffering the most from the shortage of credentialed teachers. This report shows that schools’ staffing efforts are challenged by teachers leaving the profession at high rates and by the reduced pipeline of new teachers as fewer people have entered teaching preparedness pathways in recent years. It also presents data suggesting that teachers entering the profession don’t have the same qualifications their peers in years past had, due to the proliferation of nontraditional teacher preparation programs and changes in the requirements for obtaining an initial teaching certificate. Additionally, it shows that staffing trends are affecting the qualifications held by the teaching workforce overall: A lot of teachers quit teaching and some of the teachers who quit are as credentialed or more credentialed than the teachers who stay, and the share of all teachers who are inexperienced has increased over time.”

Hill, J., Ottem, R., & DeRoche, J. (2016). Trends in public and private school principal demographics and qualifications: 1987-88 to 2011-12 (Stats in Brief, NCES 2016-189). National Center for Education Statistics.

From the ERIC abstract: “Using data from seven administrations of the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), this Statistics in Brief examines trends in public and private school principal demographics, experience, and compensation over 25 years, from 1987-88 through 2011-12. Data are drawn from the 1987-88, 1990-91, 1993-94, 1999-2000, 2003-04, 2007-08, and 2011-12 survey administrations. Principals of the sampled public and private schools provided information about their characteristics, experience, and compensation via written surveys or interviews. Public schools include both traditional public schools and public charter schools. Estimates are produced from cross-tabulations of the data, and t tests are performed to test for differences between estimates. The following study questions are examined: (1) How have selected demographics among principals changed between 1987-88 and 2011-12?; (2) How have the education, experience, and salaries of principals changed between 1987-88 and 2011-12?; and (3) Did new public and private school principals in 2011-12 differ from their more experienced colleagues? Have these differences changed over time? Key findings include: (1) The percentage of female principals increased in public schools between 1987-88 and 2011-12, from 25 to 52 percent. In private schools, while the percentage of female principals did not change, a greater percentage of private school principals were female compared with their public school counterparts across all school years, except for 2007-08.2.; (2) More public school principals reported a master’s degree as their highest level of education in 2011-12 compared with 1987-88. However, fewer public school principals held a degree higher than a master’s in 2011-12 than in 1987-88. Among private schools principals, the percentages at all degree levels remained unchanged since 1987-88.; (3) Principals in elementary, secondary, and combined public and private schools earned higher salaries in 2011-12 than in 1987-88, even after adjusting for inflation.; (4) In public schools, female principals were more evenly represented among experienced principals in 1987-88 than in 2011-12: 12 versus 47 percent, respectively. During the 2011-12 school year, 54 percent of new public school principals were women; and (5) Among new public school principals in 2011-12, more reported a master’s as their highest degree (67 percent) than did their experienced counterparts (53 percent). This was a reversal from 1987-88, when 49 percent of new principals held a master’s degree as their highest degree, compared with 57 percent of experienced principals.”

Ingersoll, R. M., Merrill, L., & Stuckey, D. (2018). The changing face of teaching. Educational Leadership, 75(8), 44–49.

From the ERIC abstract: “The authors provide an updated analysis of demographic trends in teaching profession, finding that the profession is growing, becoming more inexperienced, and more diverse. The trends and others, they write, shed light on the teacher pipeline today and offer insights on teacher-staffing issues, even as they raise important policy questions.”

Ingersoll, R. M., Merrill, E., Stuckey, D., & Collins, G. (2018). Seven trends: The transformation of the teaching force—updated October 2018 (RR 2018-2). Consortium for Policy Research in Education, University of Pennsylvania.

From the ERIC abstract: “Has the elementary and secondary teaching force changed in recent years? And, if so, how? Have the types and kinds of individuals going into teaching changed? Have the demographic characteristics of those working in classrooms altered? This report summarizes the results of an exploratory research project that investigated what trends and changes have, or have not, occurred in the teaching force over the past three decades. Our main data source was the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) and its supplement, the Teacher Follow-Up Survey (TFS)—collectively the largest and most comprehensive source of data on teachers available. SASS/ TFS are collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Education. We took advantage of both the depth and duration of these data to explore what changes have taken place in the teaching force and teaching occupation over the three decades from 1987 to 2016. The results show that the teaching force has been, and is, greatly changing; yet, even the most dramatic trends appear to have been little noticed by researchers, policy makers, and the public. The report summarizes seven of the most prominent trends and changes; we found that teaching force to be: (1) Larger; (2) Grayer; (3) Greener; (4) More Female; (5) More Diverse, by Race-Ethnicity; (6) Consistent in Academic Ability; and (7) Unstable. For each of the trends, we explore two large questions: (1) Why? What are the reasons for and sources of the trend?; and (2) So what? What difference does it make? What are the implications and consequences of the trend?”

Simpkins, J., & Roza, M. (2014). The real deal on K-12 staffing (Rapid Response). Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University.

From the ERIC abstract: “In the absence of reliable estimates of national K-12 staffing, Jim Simpkins and Marguerite Roza compile data from several national sources to determine historical K-12 staffing ratios. Their analysis finds that staffing ratios across K-12 education have risen precipitously over several decades and, despite the impact of the Great Recession, remain at 2004 levels. A state-by-state comparison reveals large disparities across states.”

Sutcher, L., Darling-Hammond, L., & Carver-Thomas, D. (2016). A coming crisis in teaching? Teacher supply, demand, and shortages in the U.S. Learning Policy Institute.

From the ERIC abstract: “Widespread media reports of local teacher shortages have become a hot topic in education since the summer of 2015. To date, there has not yet been a detailed national analysis of the sources and extent of teacher shortages, or a prognosis for the future. This report details the outcomes of such a study, which analyzes evidence of teacher shortages, as well as national and regional trends in teacher supply and demand. Using several federal databases, the authors examine the current context and model projections of future trends under several different assumptions about factors influencing supply and demand, including new entrants, re-entrants, projected hires, and attrition rates. The authors also investigate policy strategies that might mitigate these effects based on research about effective approaches to recruitment and retention.”

Uro, G., & Lai, D. (2019). English language learners in America’s great city schools: Demographics, achievement, and staffing. Council of the Great City Schools.

From the ERIC abstract: “In 2013, the Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS) published the first-ever report on English language learners (ELLs) enrolled in member districts, reporting on a range of indicators in addition to ELL enrollment and languages spoken by such students. This report updates most of the data presented in the 2013 Council ELL report, shedding light once again on ELL enrollment, student performance, staffing and professional development, along with Title III allocations. Consistent with the findings in the 2013 Council ELL report, English language learners continue to be the fastest-growing demographic group in U.S. public schools. The ELLs attending schools in the member districts of the Council of the Great City Schools account for nearly one-quarter of all ELLs in the nation. Specifically, in SY 2015-16, Council-member districts enrolled about 1.2 million ELLs in Grades K-12—or 25.0 percent of the 4.9 million estimated ELLs in the nation’s K-12 public schools. This new report by the Council presents the results of a yearlong effort to compile data on ELL enrollment and programs in the Great City school districts. Much of the data were collected from the membership via survey in 2017. Over 85 percent of the membership responded.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Staff utilization

  • Staffing “21st century”

  • Staffing “educational trends”

  • “Staffing trends” “elementary secondary education”

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2006 to present, were include in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Midwest) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.