How can districts in Rhode Island reduce teacher shortages and hire a more diverse workforce?
Overview: Both PPSD and the state of Rhode Island face a series of interrelated challenges when it comes to building and sustaining an effective teacher workforce. These include high vacancy rates and small hiring pools, particularly for teachers in hard-to-staff areas, including math, science, and English language education. Moreover, the state has relatively few teachers of color even in districts where most students identify as non-White. The Annenberg Institute is supporting the Rhode Island Department of Education and the Providence school district in documenting these patterns and identifying and testing specific improvement strategies.
Background: As part of our ongoing research-practice partnership with PPSD and the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), the Center for the Study of Educators at the Annenberg Institute has been exploring the many processes that contribute to teacher staffing in Providence.
Teacher turnover is a persistent challenge in many urban school systems. A “revolving door” of teachers into and out of the profession leads to organizational instability that hurts students and can be a symptom of serious issues in the workplace professional culture. It also leads to staffing challenges: when a teacher leaves, the district needs to fill a vacancy. Higher turnover thus means greater recruitment costs and more novice teachers.
Methods: In collaboration with PPSD, we leverage several administrative data sources to build and track key staffing indicators. With the district’s staffing allocations, we identify teachers leaving the district, moving to different roles, or going on extended leave. Rich vacancy trackers allow for rigorous analysis of how and when vacancies are created and filled. And with comprehensive applicant data, we build a broad picture of the teacher hiring process.
This year, challenges in staffing America’s public schools have erupted onto the front page of newspapers across the country. Sources as varied as the New York Times, Fox News, the American Federation of Teachers, and the American Enterprise Institute have all reported on the crisis in the teaching profession.
Two years after schools first closed for the Covid-19 pandemic and three years after the state takeover, teacher retention rates in the Providence Public School District have dipped but remain higher than other comparable urban districts.
Despite more positions to fill and higher-than-usual retirement numbers during the pandemic, PPSD hired earlier across the spring of 2020 and significantly reduced vacancies by the start of the school year.
Every year, far too many students across the country begin school without a permanent teacher in place in their classroom. These teacher vacancies arise for many reasons – schools do not complete their hiring on time, teachers resign late in the summer, and new positions arise at the last minute.