THE SOARING UNEMPLOYMENT RATE because of the Covid-19 pandemic may improve teacher quality. That's the conclusion we draw from our study of more than 30,000 Florida teachers and their students. That group included teachers who entered the profession between 1969 and 2009, a period that spanned six recessions.
Our research explores how a dearth of job opportunities in the broader economy affects teacher quality--a key question, as teachers affect student outcomes during school and well into adulthood. It is a timely question as well, since jobseekers are likely to outnumber openings for some time. That may benefit
U.S. schools and students in the long run, as we've found that individuals who choose to enter the teaching profession during a recession are significantly more effective at raising test scores. Weaker job markets offer a window of opportunity to hire stronger teachers.
The effects are most pronounced in math, where teachers who enter the profession during a labor-market downturn are 0.11 standard deviations more effective than those who start teaching when the economy is strong. That amounts to an additional $770 in lifetime earnings, on average, for each student taught by a teacher entering during a recession, or $ 13,000 cumulatively over a lifetime for the average class size of 17 students. The good news is that many of these teachers tend to stay in the classroom, providing high-quality teaching for many years to come.
The superior effectiveness of recession teachers does not reflect differences in their observed characteristics or teaching assignments. In comparing teachers who entered the profession during recessions with those who started teaching in better economic times, we find they do not differ significantly by gender, race, or age at career start, nor by the demographic makeup of the schools in which they teach.
The driving factor appears to be occupational choice. Economic downturns temporarily change the supply of potential new teachers, which grows to include adults seeking a more stable source of employment because of a lack of opportunities in other professions. That is why we find that the cohorts of teachers hired during recessions have a large share of exceptionally strong performers.
With state tax collections in sharp decline, concerns over widespread learning loss due to school closures, and an uncertain return to in-person instruction, school districts face tremendous challenges in the months ahead. These findings suggest at least a hint of a silver lining and point to a strategy to improve teacher quality during good times, as well. Consider the overall labor market and increase pay for new teachers in particular, to attract more effective candidates into the profession.
Choosing the Classroom
The number of people completing teacher-education programs each year has been roughly double the number of newly hired teachers in the United States since at least 1987, when the earliest comprehensive data are available. This implies that at any point in time, there is a large pool of potential teachers nationwide who are eligible to obtain certification immediately, regardless of the rigidity of state...
This is a preview. Get the full text through your school or public library.