Providence Public School District (PPSD) made significant progress last year in ensuring that most classrooms were fully staffed by the start of the 2020-21 school year (see the previous brief in this series for more detail). Despite more positions to fill and higher-than-usual retirement numbers during the pandemic, PPSD hired earlier across the spring of 2020 and significantly reduced vacancies by the start of the school year. The district also hired more teachers of color – a high-priority item given the large disparity between the racial/ethnic make-up of PPSD teachers and their students. Going forward, the district must contend with ongoing areas of challenge, particularly in filling open positions for English learner (EL), math, and science classrooms.
Accelerated hiring timelines appeared to contribute to this year’s success. However, continued progress in PPSD depends upon not only maintaining an early hiring process but also developing a large and qualified pool of candidates from which principals can choose. This brief looks at applicant recruitment. Specifically, we ask: To what extent does PPSD attract a sufficient pool of well-qualified applicants to its open positions and what can be done to improve the pool going forward?
Every year, far too many students across the country begin school without a permanent teacher in place in their classroom. These teacher vacancies arise for many reasons – schools do not complete their hiring on time, teachers resign late in the summer, and new positions arise at the last minute. Regardless of the reason, vacancies and late hiring hurt students. Students whose teachers are hired after the start of the school year learn less than those whose teachers are hired earlier.
In the Providence Public School District (PPSD), roughly 5 percent of all teaching positions (about 100 a year) have historically remained unfilled by the start of school. As part of the state takeover, the district took aim at this challenge, moving up the hiring timeline, mounting a recruitment campaign, and making it a key priority to fill as many open teacher positions as possible.
As part of our ongoing research-practice partnership with PPSD and the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), the Center for the Study of Educators at the Annenberg Institute has been exploring teacher staffing in the state. We have combined rich datasets from several sources to better understand these processes. This is the first in a series of briefs describing the teacher workforce in Providence.