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The human-resource factor: Getting and keeping good teachers in urban districts

A year ago in January, the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001 made a "qualified teacher in every classroom" the law of the land. This is an ambitious and important goal, but it addresses only one aspect of the teacher-quality problem facing urban school districts. Cities need not only to put qualified teachers in their classrooms, but also to keep them there.

University of Pennsylvania researcher Richard M. Ingersoll has debunked the idea that retirement is creating a crisis in the availability of teachers. In truth, fewer people retire each year than leave teaching because of dissatisfaction with schools and school districts as workplaces. The problem is not a lack of people qualified to be teachers, but a shortage of people willing to work under the human-resources conditions that prevail in school districts.

In urban districts, teacher-transfer practices exacerbate this problem. Educators who remain in the profession often move to suburban districts, or to schools perceived to be better—higher-achieving and with lower proportions of low-income and minority students— within the same district . These facts virtually guarantee that urban districts, which arguably are composed of students who most need high-quality instruction, have a revolving door of teacher vacancies and repeatedly assign minority and low-income students...


DeStefano, J., & Foley, E. (2003). The human-resource factor: Getting and keeping good teachers in urban districts. Education Week, 22(31), 44.