Papay and Kraft explore troubling effects of late teacher hiring

November 6, 2019

Two PSTC faculty associates, Associate Professors of Education and Economics John Papay and Matthew Kraft, are co-authors of a study that is receiving renewed attention amid recent discussions on urban school districts facing teacher shortages. 

An article in NJ Spotlight indicated that in late September, Newark school districts had over 100 unfilled teacher positions, resulting in substitute teacher turnover and overcrowded classrooms. Citing Papay and Kraft, the article posited that even if these openings are filled, the new teachers’ limited time to plan lessons and less established relationships with students harms learning. Chalkbeat also cited Papay and Kraft’s work, and reported that in Memphis, Tennessee, concerns about such consequences have led five high schools to outsource instruction to an online teaching company. Courses such as Algebra, Biology and U.S. History will be taught via video conference as an alternative to midyear hiring. 

Reflecting on this nationwide teacher shortage, Papay notes, “There are many reasons for these vacancies, including a lack of qualified applicants in certain subject areas and high rates of teacher turnover in certain schools. However, inefficient and delayed teacher hiring practices contribute to this challenge and are an often underlooked cause of teacher vacancies. We find that hiring teachers after the school year starts reduces student achievement substantially.”