Recent research points to teacher quality as a critical ingredient in determining student achievement and success after graduation. Consequently, policy makers have prioritized improved teacher quality as a key component of school reform. Efforts to improve the teaching force, however, are colliding head-on with current teacher shortages, and projections show that the United States will need an additional 2.2 million teachers over the next decade. Despite the attention paid to recruiting and supporting new teachers, little empirical research has been conducted on how teachers are hired, and studies suggest that public schools may not be hiring the "best" applicants.
Susan Moore Johnson of Harvard University believes that poor matches between new teachers and their initial positions - a result of ineffective hiring practices - may be contributing to the high attrition rates. She will survey 1,000 new teachers in four states to explore the prevalence of centralized and decentralized hiring practices, the extent to which teachers feel their position is a good fit, and the relationship between staffing protocol and teacher satisfaction. Johnson will construct a measure of the "goodness-of-fit" between teachers' interests, skills, and expertise and their jobs. She will then test statistically whether decentralization in hiring practices increases the likelihood of a better fit and whether a better fit enhances job satisfaction.