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Local study finds most new Illinois teachers stick close to home

From Illinois Business Journal news services

EDWARDSVILLE – High quality teaching substantially contributes to the success of students and schools, but there has been a great deal of recent debate about how to attract and retain high-quality educators.

A new study by the Illinois Education Research Council at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville adds to this discussion by examining relationships between the characteristics of new Illinois teachers and the distances they travel for teaching employment.

Eric Lichtenberg and Bradford White of the IERC, and Karen DeAngelis from the University of Rochester’s Warner Graduate School of Education authored the study. They focused on over 7,200 new teachers from the Illinois high school classes of 2002 and 2003, tracking college enrollment and entry into public school teaching for over a decade.

“The purpose of this study was to demonstrate how data on the geography of Illinois’ new teacher pipeline can be used to inform the design of policies and practices to improve the supply of academically skilled, diverse individuals into teaching in the state’s public schools,” Lichtenberger said.

The study finds that most new Illinois teachers begin their careers in schools that are demographically similar and in close proximity to the schools they attended as students. Latino and African American teachers, in particular, tended to be less geographically mobile than white teachers. Meanwhile, new teachers with high ACT scores tended to travel further for college and their first teaching jobs than teachers with low ACT scores.

The authors noted that the geographic sorting of new teachers was more closely linked to their hometown than to where they attended college, although there is some evidence that college location can provide a secondary labor market for new teachers.

The racial diversity gap between teachers and students in Illinois and elsewhere has been previously documented. This report demonstrates that the issue has implications for schools statewide, not simply for those in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. The study finds that teachers are not necessarily working in schools that are demographically analogous to those they attended prior to college, even among those who return to their home district or begin teaching in locales similar to those from which they graduated.

“Across all geographic regions of Illinois, teachers tended to begin teaching in schools with higher proportions of disadvantaged students than the schools which they attended as students,” said Brad White, IERC senior researcher. “This is not only the case for teachers who begin teaching in suburban schools, but also for teachers who return to teach in the exact same schools from which they graduated.”

The authors suggested that all new teachers, not just those in urban environments, will need to be prepared to teach in different educational settings from what they experienced as students. They also noted that it is important to remember that getting diverse, academically skilled teachers into disadvantaged schools is only the first step, and that there needs to be concerted efforts to retain high-quality educators in the neediest schools beyond their initial employment.

“This IERC report makes significant contributions to the discourse regarding the geographic mobility of new teachers and revealed some interesting patterns of teacher flow, particularly for new teachers in Chicago Public Schools,” noted Janet Holt, IERC executive director. “It is the latest in our series of teacher pipeline studies.”

The complete report is available at along with others in the series. For more information, call the IERC at (618) 650-2840 or (866) 799-4372.

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