Daniel Player – March 2015
In a new paper, the University of Virginia’s Daniel Player describes the current state of rural teacher labor markets, contrasting them with urban, suburban, and town settings. He also looks at how labor markets differ across rural settings and within Idaho’s rural schools. Player uses nationally representative survey data collected over 15 years to compare and contrast these teacher labor markets on several key indicators:
The frequency of reported vacancies and the reported difficulty in filling vacancies
Player found that while rural schools did not face vacancies at a higher rate than their non-rural counterparts, they were often selecting teachers from a smaller pool of candidates. In addition, rural schools do experience subject-specific hiring challenges. Rural schools were more likely to have vacancies in STEM positions, and were more likely to report difficulty than non-rural schools in filling vacancies for ELL teachers.
Teacher certification, training, and demographics
Player found that rural teachers were significantly less likely than their non-rural peers to have earned an advanced degree. They were also less likely to have attended a selective college, which is consistent with recent research that shows lower academic aptitude among rural teachers. Player also found that while rural schools employ fewer black and Latino teachers on average, when controlling for student demographics, these schools employ a greater percentage of black teachers than urban and town schools and a greater percentage of Latino teachers than suburban and town schools.
Job satisfaction: development, autonomy, and pay
Player found that greater autonomy— more freedom to choose materials and develop lesson plans—helped led to higher levels of job satisfaction among rural teachers. Lower salaries, however, led many of these rural teachers to indicate that they would leave these jobs if offered better pay elsewhere. Even in light of their high job satisfaction, this is not surprising. The majority of rural teachers earn thousands of dollars less each year than their non-rural counterparts.