Minority Teacher Shortage: Fact or Fiction?

September 14, 2011 - In a newly released study, Penn GSE Professors Richard Ingersoll and Henry May report that recent efforts to recruit minority teachers, and place them in disadvantaged schools, have been remarkably successful -- although those efforts have been undermined by a widespread failure to retain these new recruits.

Using nationally representative data, Ingersoll and May empirically examine trends in recruitment, employment and retention of minority teachers. Says Ingersoll, "For those engaged in efforts to address the minority teacher shortage, there is both good news and bad news."

The study, titled Recruitment, Retention and the Minority Teacher Shortage, does show a persistent gap between the percentage of minority students and the percentage of minority teachers in U.S. schools. In 2008-09, for example, 41% of the nation's K-12 students, but only 16.5% of its teachers, were minority. 

Nonetheless, since the 1980s, the number of minority teachers has increased dramatically, almost doubling from 325,000 to 642,000 -- representing a growth rate more than twice that of white teachers.

So why the gap? Ingersoll and May found the answer to this question in the retention figures: minority teachers are more likely to leave the profession than are their white peers. 

Their reasons for departing center on the working conditions of the schools where they're teaching -- specifically the lack of autonomy and influence in their work.

"The strongest factors by far for minority teachers," the researchers report, "were the level of collective faculty decision-making influence in the school and the degree of individual instructional autonomy held by teachers in their classrooms."

To download this report, click here. To read "The Minority Teacher Shortage: Fact or Fable?," a Phi Delta Kappan article by Richard Ingersoll and Henry May, click here.

Contact: Kat Stein, Exec. Director of Communications / katstein@gse.upenn.edu / (215) 898-9642