John Locke Update / Research Brief

Teacher mobility report debunked? Hardly

posted on in Education, Education (PreK-12)
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This week, those on the Left have offered various critiques of my awesome new Spotlight report, North Carolina: A Destination for Teachers.  They took issue with two aspects of the report.  I will address both.

  1. The report did not address all categories of turnover included in the “State of the Teaching Profession in North Carolina,” the state’s teacher attrition report.

That is true.  The only category that I included in my report were those teachers who left North Carolina to teach in another state. That is because the report is about interstate or cross-state mobility of teachers.  How do you know?  The first section is titled “Cross-State Mobility of Teachers.”  Those who left the profession to pursue other employment opportunities are no longer teachers.  Thus, I excluded them.  Teachers who remained in North Carolina to teach at another school have not crossed state lines. I excluded them, as well.

That is also why I did not address declining teacher education enrollment among UNC System institutions.  Obviously, they are not in the teacher job market and have not pursued opportunities in another state.

  1. North Carolina is a net importer of people and teachers are simply along for the ride.

That is also true.  My report includes a table titled, “Selected factors that influence cross-state mobility,” which lists the occupational and personal factors that draw teachers into the state, including factors that are beyond their control, such as the occupation of a partner or spouse. Additionally, in the report recommendations, I write,

Empirical studies alone cannot capture the various personal and professional reasons why teachers decide to leave or relocate to North Carolina.  And no two teachers will base their decisions on identical criteria because no two individuals have the same experiences, values, preferences, and goals. If they did, teacher recruitment and retention would be a cinch.

As such, lawmakers have the formidable task of creating and maintaining conditions that make teaching and living in North Carolina as broadly appealing as possible.  That is why the N.C. General Assembly should initiate a multi-year effort to lower tax and regulatory burdens and implement recruitment and retention strategies, including the following…

In other words, I am well aware of the broader forces at play.

In “creating and maintaining conditions that make teaching and living in North Carolina as broadly appealing as possible,” I think Republicans have done a good job. Curiously, Dr. Thad Domina, an education policy researcher and associate professor at UNC Chapel-Hill, agrees.  Lindsay Wagner of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation writes,

“Teaching forces are simply keeping up with population growth,” said Domina, who said he doesn’t think folks’ decisions to move to North Carolina has much to do with how attractive it is to teach here—instead there are greater economic forces at play, like the relatively low cost of real estate and the fact that the economy has been getting stronger with each year since the Great Recession, making it easier for families to secure jobs and move.

Are low-cost real estate and a strong economy making it easier for families to secure jobs in North Carolina?  It sounds like North Carolina is doing well under the leadership of Republicans at the local and state levels.  Indeed, counties and municipalities ensure that real estate prices remain low by holding the line on property taxes and minimizing regulatory barriers to real estate development and growth.  Likewise, lower taxes and fewer regulations on individuals and businesses have played a key role in strengthening the state economy since the Great Recession.

But it is important to note that, regardless of how or why they came to North Carolina, teachers from other states still choose to teach in the North Carolina public school system.  Because of our strong economy, out-of-state teachers may pursue any number of other jobs and occupations after they arrive in the state, particularly if they believed that North Carolina public schools were irreparably crippled by an “almost decade-long conservative war on public schools,” as one NC Policy Watch staffer claims.

I am somewhat puzzled that my liberal friends have paid so much attention to my little report.  Doing so simply drives traffic to the John Locke Foundation website.  Critics have asked reasonable questions about the report, but I do not believe any of those disagreements undermine my argument or the data and research used to defend it.

Terry Stoops is the Vice President of Research and Director of Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the Locke Foundation, he worked as the program assistant for the Child Welfare Education Programs at the University of Pittsburgh. ...

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