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Education

U.S. Superintendents Challenged to Find, Keep Good Teachers

by Tim Hodges

Story Highlights

  • 61% of superintendents struggle with recruiting, retaining good teachers
  • Needs of underprepared students, effects of poverty also top challenges
  • Preparing students for citizenship is more challenging than in past

As students across the U.S. return to classes, district superintendents find themselves preparing to meet a range of challenges in the year ahead. Sixty-one percent of superintendents strongly agree that recruiting and retaining talented teachers will be a challenge for their school district this year. Another 22% agree, totaling more than four in five who see teacher recruitment and retention as an important issue to address.

U.S. Public School Superintendents' Views of Challenges Facing Their School District
This year, the following issues will be a challenge for my school district.
5: Strongly agree 4 3 2 1: Strongly disagree Don't know/Does not apply
% % % % % %
Recruiting and retaining talented teachers 61 22 10 4 2 <1
The effects of poverty on student learning 56 28 11 4 1 <1
Improving the academic performance of underprepared students 54 35 9 2 <1 <1
Budget shortfalls 50 22 18 7 3 <1
Recruiting and retaining talented principals 46 24 16 7 2 5
Preparing students for engaged citizenship 36 38 19 6 1 <1
Strengthening academic rigor 35 42 17 5 1 <1
Rising demands for assessment from the state and federal level 32 31 26 7 4 <1
Better preparing students for higher education 24 46 23 4 1 1
Revamping curriculum 18 39 29 10 3 1
Gallup, June 25-July 18, 2018

These results are based on web interviews, conducted June 25-July 18, with 1,892 public school district superintendents in the U.S. as part of Gallup's 2018 Survey of K-12 School District Superintendents.

Several factors are causing the national teacher shortage that is driving the need for exceptional recruitment and retention efforts. Student enrollment continues to increase, and many states are enacting legislation that reduces class size, creating more teaching positions. At the same time, a declining number of new teacher graduates are entering the profession, while other teachers move from one school to another or leave the profession entirely. These factors have combined to make the recruitment and retention of talented teachers an important issue for school district leaders.

This issue is less of a challenge for superintendents in suburban districts (51% strongly agree) than those in city (65%), town (63%) and rural (65%) districts.

Gallup has asked many of the same survey items in the past, including in 2013 and in 2017, and tested 10 issues this year. While teacher and principal recruitment and retention were new options on this year's superintendent poll, the top challenges identified on last year's survey -- improving the academic performance of underprepared students and the effects of poverty on student learning -- top the list of challenges again this year.

Also similar to previous years: More than seven in 10 school superintendents (72%) strongly agree or agree that budget shortfalls will be a challenge this year, and 63% of superintendents strongly agree or agree that rising demands for assessment from the state and federal level will be an issue for their district. The latter is down sharply from 2013 when it was the most prominent challenge (82% strongly agreed or agreed).

The issue that increased in prominence over the past year is preparing students for engaged citizenship. While in 2017, half of district leaders identified this as a challenge, the 2018 results show an increase to nearly three in four.

Changes in Perceptions of Issues as Challenges for School Districts, 2017 to 2018*
Strongly agree/Agree, 2017 Strongly agree/Agree, 2018 Change
% % pct. pts.
Preparing students for engaged citizenship 50 74 +24
Better preparing students for higher education 59 70 +11
Strengthening academic rigor 66 77 +11
The effects of poverty on student learning 74 84 +10
Improving the academic performance of underprepared students 81 89 +8
Revamping curriculum 50 57 +7
Rising demands for assessment from the state and federal level 64 63 -1
Budget shortfalls 73 72 -1
*The items on recruiting and retaining talented teachers and principals were not asked in 2017.
Gallup, June 25-July 18, 2018

Preparing for the Future

While each school year offers a new beginning, district leaders are preparing for the inevitable challenges that await them. The biggest of these challenges appears to be adjusting to the teacher shortage by recruiting and retaining talented teachers, followed closely by improving the academic performance of underprepared students and dealing with the effects of poverty on student learning. Finally, while not at the level of the top challenges, the issue of preparing students for engaged citizenship grew most significantly since last year's survey. These and other issues will influence district leaders as they set policies and make decisions in the year ahead.

About the Study

Gallup developed this research study of K-12 superintendents of public school districts in the U.S. to understand opinions on important topics and policy issues facing education. Since 2013, Gallup has conducted the survey at least annually. The 2018 report addresses a variety of issues, including:

  • the future of K-12 education
  • challenges facing K-12 education
  • evaluating effectiveness of the public schools
  • student preparedness
  • work partnerships
  • combined work/higher education programs for high school graduates
  • federal education policy
  • school safety measures

The full report is available for download at Gallup.com.

Discover Gallup Education's insights and advice to transform your school:

  • Gain strategies to create thriving students and schools with courses for educators.
  • Learn why educators at all levels use CliftonStrengths to develop thriving students and schools by watching this video.
  • Hear insights into the economics of the teacher shortage, confidence in the labor market and the costs of employee turnover by registering for this webinar.

Tim Hodges, Ph.D., is Director of Research for Gallup's Education Practice.

Gallup


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