Snapshots: March/April 2019

Principal, March/April 2019. Volume 98, Number 4.

An Evolving Teacher Force

Researchers at the Consortium for Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania have released a report, “Seven Trends: The Transformation of the Teaching Force,” in which they examine just how much the teaching force has changed from 1987 to 2016. Here’s what today’s workforce looks like:

Larger. That’s probably not too surprising, because this trend has been happening for decades. But the rate of the increases hasn’t matched those of the baby boomer years, except for one big difference: The number of teachers has been increasing far faster than the number of students, especially in private schools. What’s the reason for the dramatic growth? Researchers still don’t have a clear answer.

Grayer. Since the mid-1980s, an array of published reports warned about an impending educational crisis because of severe teacher shortages. The reports predicted a dramatic increase in demand for new teachers, primarily as a result of two demographic trends—increasing student enrollments and increasing teacher retirements. The “graying” of the labor force, reports said, would force school systems to lower standards to fill teaching openings, resulting in too many underqualified teachers and low school performance. “Seven Trends” says that the data confirm this trend but show that the crisis is largely over.

Greener. As more experienced teachers have aged, a substantial increase in newly hired teachers is “greening” the teaching force. New teachers, researchers say, are a source of fresh ideas and energy, but increasingly large numbers of beginning teachers and decreasing numbers of veteran teachers could have a negative effect on student academic achievement.

More female. Teaching has historically been a predominantly female occupation, but data show that the number of women entering teaching and the proportion of teachers who are female have gone up in recent decades. This change in the male-to-female ratio isn’t because fewer men are becoming teachers, though—the number of male teachers has also grown (by 31 percent), but the number of female teachers has increased by more than twice that rate. If the trend continues, many students might encounter few, if any, male teachers in elementary school—a time when teachers are seen as role models.

More diverse by race and ethnicity. Data show that teaching remains a primarily white, non-Hispanic workforce, and that a gap persists between the percentage of minority students and the percentage of minority teachers in the U.S. Data also show that the gap isn’t due to a failure to recruit minority teachers; it’s largely because the number of white students has decreased in recent years, while the number of minority students has increased.

Consistent in academic ability. Data seem to confirm that many top-achieving college students find teaching less attractive than other career paths, say researchers. Just under one-tenth of newly hired first-year public school teachers come from the top two categories of higher education institutions—“most competitive” and “highly competitive.” About a quarter come from the bottom two categories—“less competitive” and “not competitive.” About two-thirds of first-year teachers come from middle-​level—“very competitive” and “competitive”—institutions.

Unstable. Teaching has long been marked by high rates of attrition. But data mask large differences in departure rates among different types of teachers and different locales. The flow of teachers out of schools is not equally distributed across states, regions, and school districts. The largest variations in teacher departures by location are those between different schools, even within the same district. Among other negative consequences, turnover is a major factor behind schools having difficulty staffing qualified math and science teachers.

These results are based on data from the “Schools and Staffing Survey” and the “Teacher Follow-Up Survey.” Researchers worked with the National Center for Education Statistics, the statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Education, to collect the appropriate data. Access the full report at

Supporting Grieving Children

As early career principals navigate the principalship, they often are faced with challenges in their schools. But are those challenges the same across the board? NAESP wanted to find out, so we asked panelists on our National Panel of New Principals (NPNP) to rank their biggest areas of challenge. Here’s what the responses showed:

Biggest Areas of Concern

Not surprisingly, the top five areas of concern were overwhelmingly about students’ well-being:

  • Students not performing to their level of potential;
  • Student mental health issues;
  • Providing a continuum of services for at-risk students;
  • Students with emotional problems; and
  • Instructional practices.

Though still considered challenges, lowest on their list of concerns were staff mental health issues, student assessment, teacher performance and effectiveness, fragmentation of the
principal’s time, and financial resources.

Helpful Resources

Despite these challenges, NPNP panelists shared with each other the resources they found most helpful in addressing these areas of concern.

  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The Leader in Me by Stephen Covey
  • A Different Vision: A Revolution Against Racism in Public Education by Susan Anglada Bartley
  • Learning by Doing by Richard DuFour
  • Lost at School by Ross Greene
  • Move Your Bus by Ron Clark
  • Multiple Pathways to the Student Brain by Janet Zadina
  • Serving Vulnerable and At-Risk Populations from
  • Start With Why by Simon Sinek
  • The Zones of Regulation and MindUP from The Goldie Hawn Foundation

Early career principals can find more resources like this on the NPNP website,

My Two Cents

How has your school overcome challenges to find success with SEL instruction?

Chris Wooleyhand (@PRINCIPAL64): You have to approach SEL on many levels: student, classroom, grade level, school. Develop systems that provide a common language throughout all areas; give children lots of strategies through modeling.

Jeremy Mitchell (@IHJAGUARLEADER): Our teachers have gotten behind @PosProject’s model of a little bit every day (10–15 minutes) [for] 24 positive psychology character strengths spread across the year. #scienceofcharacter

Dominic Frisina (@MRDSASCCS): Clearly defined goals based on needs analysis, buy-in and belief from staff, continuous PD, [and] flexible scheduling all have been key for us. Knowing what we need and putting those needs first.

H.L. Wilkins (@WILKINS_MA2): We require SEL activities during homeroom periods. [We post] school norms on posters throughout the building. Our school counselor provides strategies for our teachers. We encourage students to think about better choices. #workinprogress

Want to connect with your peers? Contribute to the converation by following @NAESP on Twitter.

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