Defining and Identifying Hard-To-Staff Schools

The Role of School Demographics and Conditions

Published in: Educational Administration Quarterly, v. 47, no. 4, Oct. 2011, p. 582-619

Posted on RAND.org on October 01, 2011

by V. Darleen Opfer

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PURPOSE: This study makes a distinction between a school having high attrition and one having difficulties in hiring. It does so by exploring the relationship between definitions of hard-to-staff schools, school demographics, and school conditions that are often associated with a school being hard-to-staff. RESEARCH DESIGN: The study relies on a survey of Ohio schools to ascertain information on vacancies for 2004-2005. The survey also collected information on principal perceptions of the impact of various school conditions and difficulty in hiring. Information was received about 3,371 teaching vacancies in 1,040 schools. The overall response rate from schools was 67%. In the first stage of analysis, a descriptive analysis explored the relationship between school demographic factors, definitions of hard-to-staff, and school conditions. In the second stage, three regression models were tested for seven definitions of hard-to-staff to determine whether school demographics and conditions were predictive of being hard-to-staff under any of the definitions. FINDINGS: The analyses showed that school demographics such as poverty, student ethnicity, and school location are not predictive of difficulty in hiring in general. School conditions such as central office help in hiring are more important than the demographic characteristics typically associated with a school being hard-to-staff. CONCLUSIONS: How we define hard-to-staff matters. The characteristics of a hard-to-staff school vary depending on the definition used. Thus, we need to be more specific in defining hard-to-staff schools so that both research on these schools and resource targeting by policy makers yield better results.

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