New Rockefeller Institute Report Highlights Equity Gap in New York Teacher Workforce

Report Found No Statewide Teacher Shortage in New York, but School Districts with High Poverty Rates and Minority Student Populations Are More Likely to Face Challenges in Recruiting and Retaining Qualified Teachers


Albany, NY — A new report by the Rockefeller Institute of Government shows that while New York State as a whole is not experiencing a teacher shortage, school districts with high child poverty rates and minority populations face severe problems in teacher staffing.

The report, “The State of the New York Teacher Work Force,” reveals that these districts are significantly more likely to have teachers who are teaching out of their certification areas, who have not yet qualified for permanent certification, who have little teaching experience, and who cycle frequently in and out of teaching jobs. These equity issues are affecting more and more children as student population growth is greater in urban, economically disadvantaged, and racially and ethnically diverse communities.

This is the second report in the Rockefeller Institute’s ongoing, multistate study of teacher supply and demand. It examines the question of a potential shortage of K-12 teachers in New York from three perspectives: the balance of current teachers and students; the supply of potential new teachers and how their qualifications fit, or fail to fit, the near-term needs of school districts; and the distribution of challenges in staffing across districts of different economic, racial, and ethnic compositions.

“Our findings show that initiatives to encourage more people to join the teaching profession in New York must be paired with targeted policy efforts to close the equity gap in economically disadvantaged and minority districts,” said Rockefeller Institute President Jim Malatras. “We must continue to get detailed information from districts and schools in order to study, analyze, and address teacher workforce inequities at the local level. Generalities will not solve the problem if our goal is to improve our education system for all.”

“If we are to strengthen the education pipeline, we must give every student a chance to succeed. Data show that teachers matter more to learning outcomes than any other in-school aspect of education,” said Nancy Zimpher, senior fellow and director of the Center for Education Pipeline Systems Change at the Rockefeller Institute. “To ensure that every child has the opportunity to benefit from great teaching, we need to provide more and better data to states about where and what kinds of teacher shortages exist. This work will help them better target their resources and policies, and will assist them in advocating for greater support, increased flexibility, and more resources to address their specific needs.”

Other findings include:

  • At the statewide level, New York has not experienced a teacher shortage, as there has not been a growing imbalance between the number of teachers and the number of public school students. From 2011 to 2016, student-teacher ratios actually fell both in New York City and the rest of the state.
  • Near-term aggregate demand for new teachers may also be low. K-12 enrollment in New York State has declined over the last decade and a half and is expected to continue its decline through 2025.
  • Many of the teachers in New York City, the only major region of the state where student enrollment is growing, are relatively young and consequently less likely to generate many retirements over the next several years.
  • Teacher turnovers have declined in recent years, a trend that, if it continues, may also moderate demand for new teachers.
  • While there is no convincing evidence of a current or imminent teacher shortage, New York State has seen in recent years one of the largest drops in the nation in the number of individuals enrolled in and graduating from teacher education programs. If that trend persists, the decrease in the supply of teachers could create shortages in future years.
  • There are long-standing teacher shortages in subject areas such as bilingual and special education, as well as potential emerging shortages in core subject matter areas such as science, social studies, English, and mathematics.

New York policymakers have begun to address the problem with targeted policy solutions such as the Master Teacher program in partnership with the State University of New York to improve and expand the teacher pipeline in science, technology, engineering, and math; the TeachNY Advisory Council to take immediate action to address the persistent lack of accurate and timely data to support continuous improvement and excellence throughout the education system; the Teacher Opportunity Corps, Teachers of Tomorrow, and the Mentor Teacher-Internship Program; and proposals in this year’s budget to provide financial incentives to teachers in high poverty and minority districts. These targeted programs have helped lessen potential shortage areas and could help close the equity gap.

The Rockefeller Institute’s report was conducted in cooperation with the New York State Department of Education, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the College Football Playoff Foundation’s Extra Yard for Teachers program.

Read the full report.