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Report Oversimplifies Complex Issue of Teacher Attrition

BOULDER, CO (January 17, 2023) – A recent report from the Progressive Policy Institute highlights the emergence of widespread teacher staffing shortages. By describing teacher autonomy as a panacea for reversing the problem, however, the report oversimplifies the issue.

Charisse Gulosino of the University of Memphis and Hajime Mitani of Rowan University reviewed Autonomous Schools Can Help Solve the Problem Behind the Teacher Shortage Problem and found it to overlook the complexity and nuance of the teacher shortage issue, ignoring the factors that school districts face such as staffing gaps, low pay, and high workloads.

The report’s recommendations are grounded in its descriptions of contemporary “autonomous” school initiatives. While the specifics of these initiatives vary, they all fall under the umbrella of positioning teachers with greater decision-making responsibilities and authority. Research does support the finding that increased autonomy generally produces greater job satisfaction for teachers. Therefore, the report suggests that such initiatives are effective strategies to remedy teacher shortages.

What Professors Gulosino and Mitani find lacking in the report, however, is supporting evidence for these causal claims, in that it relies on popular contemporary readings and descriptive surveys rather than evidence of the efficacy of the recommended approach. Classical economic theory suggests that teacher shortages result from an imbalance between supply and demand generated by multiple factors. Furthermore, teacher labor markets are geographically small and localized, requiring local action.

Effectively addressing the problem, therefore, requires understanding local conditions and analyzing factors affecting demand and supply in a specific context. Regarding autonomy reforms, it also requires assessing their cost-effectiveness and sustainability. Thus, they conclude, policymakers and other readers should be aware that what is ignored in this report is far more important to informed policy than what it contains.

Find the review, by Charisse Gulosino and Hajime Mitani, at:

Find Autonomous Schools Can Help Solve the Problem Behind the Teacher Shortage Problem, written by Tressa Pankovits and published by the Progressive Policy Institute, at:

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