How to Keep Good Teachers in New York's Urban Schools? Two UAlbany Researchers Newly Funded to Find a Way

Contact: Vincent Reda, 518-437-4985

Attracting and retaining high quality teachers is a concern for any school, but particularly when that school is low-performing. Now, two UAlbany researchers equipped with nearly $1 million in new grants are expanding their earlier research on teacher labor-force quality in order to find ways to keep high quality teachers in New York.

James Wyckoff, associate professor of public administration and policy, and Hamilton Lankford, associate professor of economics, will examine the career paths of New York teachers and reasons for the career decisions they make along the way. The researchers' aim is to discover which strategies would be most effective in attracting and retaining more high quality teachers.

New grants to Wyckoff and Lankford consist of a $595,000 award from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), a $205,000 grant from the Smith Richardson Foundation, and a $132,000 award from the New York State Department of Education (NYSDOE) and the Rand Corporation. Added to past funding from NYSDOE, it brings total support for the Wyckoff-Lankford studies to more than $1.25 million.

The new efforts will build on the report the two researchers issued in November 2000, "The Labor Market for Public School Teachers: A Descriptive Analysis of New York State's Teacher Workforce." In it, the researchers examined 30 years worth of state teaching records and documented the disparity of teacher quality among New York's public schools, with particular focus on the quality of teachers in the state's most needy schools.

UAlbany President Karen Hitchcock said the studies "are another example of the power of University at Albany scholarship and research to address critical societal issues. Professors Wyckoff and Lankford have already monitored the pulse of teaching in New York State and now will work toward the ultimate goal of improving New York's teaching force."

The earlier study on New York's teacher workforce found teacher quality to be much worse in urban areas, where teachers with no prior experience and with fewer qualifications make up an increasing proportion of new hires. It also stated that black and Latino students in urban areas are more likely to have lower quality teachers than typical white or non-poor students.

"There's not going to be any silver bullet, because various factors affect the choices made by teachers," said Wyckoff in reference to the prospects of developing policy. "It's likely there are a lot of different things that can be done, and they all should be considered."

The next round of studies will examine questions such as what factors determine why college students decide to pursue education careers, where educators choose to teach, why they transfer from certain schools and districts, and why they decide to quit.

"Many issues affect these decisions, including student demographics and community composition, salary, class size, and professional development opportunities, as well as the economy and labor market in general," Lankford said. "These studies are academically important, but at the same time, the findings will be very relevant to current policy issues."

"There are important gaps in our understanding of how to attract and retain high quality teachers," added Wyckoff. "Unless we can understand what influences teachers' choices, policies may not achieve their intended purposes."

The UAlbany team - including three graduate students - will collaborate on the studies with Donald Boyd, director of the Fiscal Studies Program at the Rockefeller Institute, and Susanna Loeb, assistant professor of Education at Stanford University.

For more University at Albany information, visit our World Wide Web site at

March 15, 2001

NOTE: Lankford and Wyckoff's report "The Labor Market for Public School Teachers: A Descriptive Analysis of New York State's Teacher Workforce." is available at the Education Finance Research Consortium website,


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