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Most Public Schools Face Challenges in Hiring Teachers and Other Personnel Entering the 2023-24 Academic Year

October 17, 2023

Key barriers to hiring include too few candidates, lack of qualified applicants

WASHINGTON (October 17, 2023)—Eighty-six percent of U.S. K-12 public schools reported challenges hiring teachers for the 2023-24 school year, with 83 percent reporting trouble hiring for non-teacher positions, such as classroom aides, transportation staff, and mental health professionals, according to data released today by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the statistical center of the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

The new data show improving sentiment among public schools about their staffing levels, with 45 percent reporting that they feel their school is understaffed, down from 53 percent feeling understaffed entering the prior academic year (2022-23).

“Although we see a somewhat smaller share of public schools starting the new academic year feeling understaffed, the data indicate the majority of public schools are experiencing staffing challenges at the same levels they did last school year,” said NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr. “Understanding hiring difficulties is part of NCESís mandate to monitor educational recovery in our nation's schools.”

NCESís School Pulse Panel (SPP) also asked about the prevalence of vacancies across subject areas. The most frequently cited teaching positions with vacancies that needed to be filled were general elementary (cited by 71 percent of public schools) and special education teachers (70 percent). For non-teaching positions, the most frequently cited were classroom aides (75 percent) and custodial staff (49 percent).

The biggest barriers to hiring teachers were too few candidates applying for open positions (cited by 70 percent of public schools) and a lack of qualified applicants applying for open positions (cited by 66 percent). These were also the top two barriers identified in hiring for non-teacher positions, with roughly the same rates reported by public schools.

The most difficult teaching positions to fill entering this school year were special education, physical science (e.g., chemistry, physics), and foreign language positions Ė for those schools that had such positions. The most difficult non-teaching staff positions to fill were for transportation and custodial staff. (See “Key Findings” section below for details.)

“This new data, collected in August, focuses on high-priority education-related topics to better understand what’s happening in public schools, and to serve as a guidepost to inform the work of education leaders and policymakers looking to support them,” said Chris Chapman, NCES Associate Commissioner, Sample Surveys Division. “Without the collaboration of these public schools, this data would not be possible.”

Beyond staffing issues, the latest SPP data also address digital learning and technology, as well as “wrap-around” services for schools and surrounding communities, such as mental health supports, dental care, nutrition services, and social work.

The findings released today are part of an experimental data product from the School Pulse Panel and were collected between August 8 and August 23 of this year. These data were collected from 1,319 participating public K-12 schools from every state and the District of Columbia.

Additional data collected from 92 public K-12 schools in the U.S. Outlying Areas—American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—are also available. Results from this collection include the finding that 73 percent of public schools in the Outlying Areas feel understaffed entering the 2023-24 school year.

Experimental data products are innovative statistical tools created using new data sources or methodologies. Experimental data may not meet all NCES quality standards but are of sufficient benefit to data users in the absence of other relevant products to justify release. NCES clearly identifies experimental data products upon their release.

All data released today can be found on the School Pulse Panel dashboard at https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/spp/results.asp

Key Findings

Staffing for 2023-24 School Year

  • Forty-five percent of U.S. public schools report feeling that they are understaffed entering the 2023-24 school year, a decrease from the 53 percent of schools who felt understaffed entering last school year (2022-23).
    • For public schools that report feeling understaffed, 67 percent of schools that have classroom aides report feeling understaffed in this area. Sixty-three percent that offer special education services report feeling understaffed in this area.
    • Outside of the classroom, public schools report feeling understaffed with their transportation staff (61 percent) and mental health professionals (49 percent).
  • Among public schools employing these positions, the top two most prevalent teaching positions that needed to be filled entering the 2023-24 were general elementary teachers (71 percent) and special education teachers (70 percent).
    • Based on public schools’ reports of positions being “somewhat” or “very difficult” to fill, some of the most difficult positions to fill entering this school year were special education (77 percent), physical science (77 percent), and foreign language teaching positions (76 percent).
  • The top two most prevalent non-teaching staff vacancies that needed to be filled entering the 2023-24 school year were classroom aides (75 percent) and custodial staff (49 percent).
    • Based on public schools’ reports of positions being “somewhat” or “very difficult” to fill, some of the most difficult non-teaching positions to fill entering this school year were transportation (92 percent) and custodial (78 percent) staff.
  • For both teaching and non-teaching vacancies, public schools reported too few candidates applying (70 and 61 percent, respectively) and an overall lack of qualified candidates (66 and 52 percent, respectively) as the top two hiring challenges entering the 2023-24 school year.
  • Eighty-six percent of public schools reported challenges hiring teachers entering the 2023-24 school year and 83 percent reported hiring challenges for non-teaching staff.

Technology and Digital Literacy

  • Entering the 2023-24 school year, 44 percent of U.S. public schools reported providing internet access to students who need it at their homes. This is approximately the same percentage of schools that did so entering the 2022-23 school year (45 percent) but is a decrease from the percentage of schools that did so entering the 2021-22 school year (70 percent).
  • Ninety-five percent of public schools provided digital devices (laptops, tablets, etc.) to students who need them for the 2023-24 school year.
  • Seventy-five percent of public schools provided digital literacy training to their students, while 27 percent offered this to students’ families.

Community Collaboration

  • Sixty percent of U.S. public schools utilized a “community school” or “wraparound services” model, in which a school partners with other government agencies and/or local nonprofits to support and engage with the local community (e.g., providing mental and physical health care, nutrition, housing assistance, etc.). This is an increase from the 45 percent of schools that utilized these models during the 2022-23 school year.
  • Among all public schools, the most prevalent community services provided through school partnerships are mental health care (66 percent), nutrition/food assistance (55 percent), and volunteering opportunities (43 percent).

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The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistical System, is the statistical center of the U.S. Department of Education and the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations. NCES fulfills a congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report complete statistics on the condition and progress of American education; conduct and publish reports; and review and report on education activities internationally.

Follow NCES on X, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube and subscribe to the NCES Newsflash to receive email notifications when new data are released.

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is the independent and nonpartisan statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education. Its mission is to provide scientific evidence on which to ground education practice and policy and to share this information in formats that are useful and accessible to educators, parents, policymakers, researchers, and the public.

CONTACT:
Josh Delarosa, National Center for Education Statistics, ARIS.NCES@ed.gov
Erik Robelen, Hager Sharp, erobelen@hagersharp.com