January 17, 2023

Contact:
Alex Molnar: (480) 797-7261, nepc.molnar@gmail.com
Faith Boninger: (480) 390-6736, fboninger@gmail.com
Charisse Gulosino: (901) 678-5217, cglosino@memphis.edu

Report Oversimplifies Complex Issue of Teacher Attrition

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: Teacher autonomy alone cannot resolve the multifaceted, deeply nuanced, and complex systemic problems - such as low pay and high workloads - that have led to teacher shortages.

EAST LANSING, MI (January 17, 2023) - A recent report from the Progressive Policy Institute highlights the emergence of widespread teacher staffing shortages. By describing teacher autonomy as a panacea for reversing the problem, however, the report oversimplifies the issue.

Charisse Gulosino of the University of Memphis and Hajime Mitani of Rowan University reviewed Autonomous Schools Can Help Solve the Problem Behind the Teacher Shortage Problem and found it to overlook the complexity and nuance of the teacher shortage issue, ignoring the factors that school districts face such as staffing gaps, low pay, and high workloads.

The report's recommendations are grounded in its descriptions of contemporary "autonomous" school initiatives. While the specifics of these initiatives vary, they all fall under the umbrella of positioning teachers with greater decision-making responsibilities and authority. Research does support the finding that increased autonomy generally produces greater job satisfaction for teachers. Therefore, the report suggests that such initiatives are effective strategies to remedy teacher shortages.

What Professors Gulosino and Mitani find lacking in the report, however, is supporting evidence for these causal claims, in that it relies on popular contemporary readings and descriptive surveys rather than evidence of the efficacy of the recommended approach. Classical economic theory suggests that teacher shortages result from an imbalance between supply and demand generated by multiple factors. Furthermore, teacher labor markets are geographically small and localized, requiring local action.

Effectively addressing the problem, therefore, requires understanding local conditions and analyzing factors affecting demand and supply in a specific context. Regarding autonomy reforms, it also requires assessing their cost-effectiveness and sustainability. Thus, they conclude, policymakers and other readers should be aware that what is ignored in this report is far more important to informed policy than what it contains.

Find the review, by Charisse Gulosino and Hajime Mitani, at:
https://www.greatlakescenter.org

Find Autonomous Schools Can Help Solve the Problem Behind the Teacher Shortage Problem, written by Tressa Pankovits and published by the Progressive Policy Institute, at:
https://www.progressivepolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/PPI_Teacher-shortages.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: https://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces high-quality information in support of democratic deliberation about education policy. We publish original research, policy briefs, and expert third-party reviews of think tank reports. NEPC publications are written in accessible language and are intended for a broad audience that includes academic experts, policymakers, the media, and the general public. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

About The Great Lakes Center
The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform. Visit the Great Lakes Center Web Site at: https://www.greatlakescenter.org. Follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/greatlakescent. Find us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GreatLakesCenter.

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at https://www.greatlakescenter.org/