A new research brief on the NCSC Web site explains findings about how new elementary school teachers decide whether to apply to charter schools when they begin looking for a job. The brief is based on the paper Charter Schools and the Teacher Job Search in Michigan by NCSC associate director Marisa Cannata, which explores the decisions that new teachers make as they move through the job search process.
The study collected responses from new graduates of teacher education programs as they entered the job market, applied for teaching jobs, and decided where to work. It produced several interesting findings:
- Few prospective teachers give equal consideration to charter schools and traditional public schools. Most teachers in the study avoided charter schools altogether or included them only if positions in traditional public schools were not available.
- Social and institutional factors influence job applicants’ familiarity with, and openness to, working in charter schools. Prospective teachers favored schools that were familiar and personally relevant (e.g., they had contacts in the schools or lived in communities where such schools were located). Applicants who attended universities that authorized charter schools and who lived in communities with charter schools were more likely to include charters in job searches.
- Applicants had misconceptions about charter schools’ public/private status and about their missions. Some said charter schools seemed more similar to private entities, making them unappealing to applicants committed to public education, while others thought charter schools served public purposes by educating predominantly low-income students. Prospective teachers who wanted to work in an urban school or who also applied to private schools were more likely to apply to charter schools.
- Applicants who end up in charter schools earn lower salaries and are less satisfied with their schools. Half the applicants hired by charter schools indicated that they planned to apply for another teaching job at the end of the school year, compared with 15 percent in traditional public schools. Even if these teachers did not follow through, the data suggest that those who landed in charter schools were more likely to wish they worked somewhere else.
The study used surveys, interviews, and binomial logistic regression to investigate why new teachers decide to apply – or not to apply – to charter schools. The researchers conducted a longitudinal survey of 160 applicants and more detailed interviews of a subset of 27 prospective teachers at several points during their job search. The interviews were coded to identify central themes in applicants’ decision-making and experiences to identify patterns about why they did or did not consider charter schools. Those patterns became the bases for independent variables in a logistic regression model using data from the survey and application to at least one charter school as the outcome variable.
The brief includes a clearly written sidebar explaining the theoretical framework behind the study, labor market segmentation. The theory guides the study’s development of a model for understanding the interaction between teachers’ job searches and institutional structures and informal boundaries (such as social networks and preferences for working in a familiar setting).
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read more about teacher labor markets from the NCSC publications archive.