D.C.'s New Teacher Demographics

Blog Post
Sept. 12, 2006

Recent years have seen an influx of young, well-educated new teachers into the Washington, D.C., school system. Some have come from Teach For America (TFA), which recruits recent college graduates from the nation's most prestigious colleges and universities to teach in high-poverty communities without participating in standard teacher training. Others have arrived via the D.C. Teaching Fellows Program, a nonprofit organization established in 2001 to recruit mid-career D.C. professionals into the classroom, also without traditional training. In combination, these two programs are changing the face of new educators and ratcheting up competition for new teaching jobs in the nation's capital.

As Chart 1 shows, TFA and the D.C. Teaching Fellows together provided over one-quarter of new D.C. teachers in 2004, and almost one-third of the city's recruits in 2005.

In addition to their growing numbers, the new D.C. teachers recruited through TFA and the D.C. Teaching Fellows are substantially different from those recruited through the district's traditional human resources process. For instance, recruits from the "non-traditional" programs are younger, attended more selective colleges and universities, and had higher college grade point averages.

As Chart 2 shows, the average G.P.A. of newly-hired TFA and D.C. Teaching Fellow teachers in 2004 and 2005 was one-half of a letter-grade above traditional candidates. Over 40 percent of degrees earned from non-traditional candidates come from whatUS News and World Report defines as a highly selective college or university, compared to only 11 percent of degrees earned by traditional hires. While this is partly due to TFA's focus on recruiting from the most selective institutions, D.C. Teaching Fellows also attended selective colleges at a much higher rate than traditional DCPS hires.

In addition to differences in education and achievement, traditional and non-traditional hires vary substantially in age. Chart 3 shows that more than 75 percent of new non-traditional teachers in 2004 and 2005 were less than 30 years old and over 90 percent were under 40. Traditional hires, by contrast, tended to be older (and presumably more experienced in the classroom) with roughly half under 30, one quarter between 30 and 40, and one quarter 40 years old or above.

In addition to changing the demographics of the D.C. teacher labor market, non-traditional programs also appear to be contributing to growing competition for new jobs. According to the New Teacher Project, a national non-profit organization that helps school districts recruit and hire quality teachers, the number of traditional teaching applicants in D.C. increased by over 160 percent from 2004 to 2006. Yet the number of non-traditional hires grew during that time, while the number of traditional hires declined.

These labor market trends come at a critical time for the D.C. school system and many others as many public school teachers face retirement in the next decade (approximately 700,000 over the next decade, according to the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future) and standards for teachers are being raised. The D.C. data suggest that nontraditional recruitment strategies are becoming an integral component of teacher recruitment in some urban areas.

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