Sorting Teachers into Schools: Teacher Hiring and the Reproduction of Inequality
The role that district officials and principals play in selecting teachers from among the pool of applicants is a little-understood aspect of the teacher sorting process, an issue with important implications for students’ access to quality teachers. Organizational features of schools and school districts may influence how applicants are selected and sorted into different types of schools, potentially magnifying already large differences in access to quality teachers for different types of students. While there is evidence to suggest that current employees actively seek to relocate from lower-resourced, higher-minority schools (Boyd, Lankford, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2005a, 2005b), there is little information about how district hiring processes influence which types of teachers are hired. This study will fill a substantial lacuna: To date, the closest studies examine how a battery of applicant selection tools predicts teacher effectiveness, absences, and attrition (Goldhaber et al. 2014) and school factors affecting variation in the number of applicants schools within the same district receive (Engel, Jacob, and Curran 2014).
This study will use data that matches applicants to discrete teacher, staff, and administrator positions to examine whether there are systematic differences in the types of applicants eventually hired at different types of schools. In addition to examining how the hiring process contributes to sorting teachers across schools, we will also investigate whether there are demographic differences in the overall likelihood of getting hired. Further, we plan to match these data with administrative data on student preferences for different schools, as well as teacher survey data containing information on teachers’ preferences for working at different schools.
This study thus makes three main contributions. First, by better understanding the organizational context of the teacher labor market, we will gain insight into the ways in which school district hiring practices contribute to or ameliorate the growing inequality in educational access between students of different class and race backgrounds. Second, while researchers agree that teacher sorting matters, no previous research has actually examined the process of sorting at the point where this sorting occurs (i.e. the hiring process). Finally, while research elsewhere has documented the importance of understanding job sorting processes (DiPrete, 1989; Petersen & Morgan, 1995; Tomaskovic-Devey, 1993) and the hiring pipeline (Fernandez & Weinberg, 1997), this study extends this research to a new context, examining a large, highly feminized, professional labor market with a high degree of occupational closure.
Given the important role that teachers play in reproducing inequality, understanding how they are sorted into different schools—where they will teach students from different backgrounds—will help bring insights from sociological research on job sorting processes to bear on the inequality generating functions of schools. In future research, I plan to match data from these applicants to other administrative records that will allow me to track applicants who were not hired within this district, as well as follow teachers who leave the district to see what kinds of positions they pursue.