Cool Thinking on Hot Topics: Educator Labor Markets

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Peter Goff: Introduction to Educator Labor Markets

University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Peter Goff leads viewers through the first Cool Thinking on Hot Topics series on labor markets in education. Goff begins with an introduction to the current way in which problems are solved in education, and suggests a shift in paradigm to help improve the challenges facing education today.

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The CPRE Knowledge Hub's Cool Thinking on Hot Topics presents its Educator Labor Market series, led by Peter Goff, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He kicks the series off by providing a broad overview of a distinct challenge in addressing educator labor market problems: the importance of knowing and understanding the mechanism behind the problem, as this allows a person, school, or district to select the optimal solution. Although this seems like an obvious point, there is, in fact, relatively little research that undertakes this objective. The Educator Labor Market series is part of a unique effort to view teacher labor market issues through the lens of understanding underlying mechanisms to reach a solution.

After providing this overview, Goff is joined by Kirabo Jackson, associate professor at Northwestern University, to discuss the mechanism of teachers searching for an increased fit between themselves and the school for which they work in leading to the creation of teacher shortage issues.

Subsequently, Matthew G. Springer, assistant professor at Vanderbilt University, explains his focus on Pay-for-Performance models in addressing the mechanism of non-incentivized working conditions of teacher retention problems.

Providing a state-level perspective, Goff is then joined by a panel of South Dakota education policymakers - State School Board Member Kelly Duncan, South Dakota Secretary of Education Melody Schopp, and South Dakota State Senator Deborah Soholt - to discuss both the supply and demand mechanisms that feed into teacher labor shortage issues in South Dakota and solutions currently being implemented in South Dakota to address these underlying mechanisms.

Joining his fellow Wisconsinite, Goff speaks to Tony Evers, who has served as Wisconsin's Superintendent of Public Instruction since 2009. Evers calls for a reframing of teacher shortage problems by calling attention to the underlying mechanism of dysfunctional public perceptions regarding the teaching profession

Former Superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District Antwan Wilson discusses how he was able to turn some of the underlying mechanisms in the teacher labor market on their heads by shifting the paradigm around teaching in Oakland, which leads to people responding to the labor market differently.

On the flip side of the equation, Jonah Rockoff, associate professor at the Columbia Business School, addresses the manner in which the mechanism of poor teacher hiring processes can have damaging effects on the labor market in the long term.

With Rockoff focusing on what gets teachers in the door, Georgia State University Professor Tim Sass addresses the mechanism of having a lack of incentives for teachers as a reason for labor market struggles.

Lastly, Director of the Center for Education Data & Research and University of Washington Bothell Professor Dan Goldhaber discusses teacher shortage issue, focusing on the mechanisms of geographical unbalance in student teaching placements. The problem of historically understaffed schools - high poverty, rural schools - begins with the disproportionate arrangement of student teachers.

By identifying these underlying mechanisms that feed into teacher labor market problems, as opposed to deploying blanket statements about such issues, the Educator Labor Market series provides a comprehensive understanding of how to systematically approach teacher labor market problems.

Below, please utilize these select resources, which were chosen to provide more ways to engage with the current conversations occurring around educator labor markets. These resources will deepen your knowledge base, and provide additional details and considerations to supplement the conversations captured in our Cool Thinking videos on educator labor markets.


Peter Goff
Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Peter Goff is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, where he teaches classes on quantitative analysis, research methods, and K-12 finance policy. His research examines the policies and practices surrounding the strategic management of human capital (SMHC). Using a combination of experimental, quasi-experimental, and graphical-descriptive methods, his work explores SMHC policies at the school, district, and state-level, with a particular focus on the two-sided selection process that arises during hiring. His current research projects examine teacher-student assignment practices, the impact of within-school teacher mobility on instructional growth, and bias in the education labor market.

Kelly Duncan
South Dakota Board of Education

Kelly Duncan has served on the South Dakota Board of Education since 1996.  She served four years as board president.  Duncan is the Dean of the Millicent Atkins School of Education at Northern State University in Aberdeen SD where she is spearheading the revision of their Teacher Education program.

Tony Evers
Superintendent of Public Instruction of Wisconsin since 2009

Dr. Anthony Evers is presently the Superintendent of Public Instruction of Wisconsin since 2009. Evers serves as President of the Council of Chief State School Officers and was Wisconsin's Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction from 2001 to 2009. Evers has set the goals for his strategic plan "Agenda 2017," in which the state increases its graduation rate from 85.7 percent to 92 percent, closes the graduation and career and college readiness gaps, as well as adopts the Fair Funding for Our Future plan to make school finance more equitable and transparent.

Dan Goldhaber
Director of the Center for Education Data & Research and a Professor in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell

Dan Goldhaber is the Director of the Center for Education Data & Research and a Professor in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell. He is also the Director of the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) and a Vice-President at American Institutes of Research (AIR). Dan previously served as an elected member of the Alexandria City School Board from 1997-2002, as an Associate Editor of Economics of Education Review and an editor of Education Finance and Policy. Dan's work focuses on issues of educational productivity and reform at the K-12 level, the broad array of human capital policies that influence the composition, distribution, and quality of teachers in the workforce, and connections between students' K-12 experiences and postsecondary outcomes.

Kirabo Jackson
Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, Northwestern University

Kirabo Jackson is a labor economist who studies education and social policy issues. He has analyzed several important aspects of education policy such as the importance of public school funding on student outcomes through adulthood, the effects of college-preparatory programs on students’ college and labor market outcomes, the effects of educational tracking on students’ academic achievement, and the effects of single-sex education on students’ academic performance. The bulk of Jackson’s work, however, has focused on better understanding teacher labor markets: His extensive work on teachers analyzes the role of peer learning in teacher effectiveness, how student demographics directly affect the distribution of teacher quality across schools, how a teacher’s effectiveness depends on the schooling context within which they operate, how best to measure teacher quality, and other related topics.

Jonah Rockoff
Associate professor of Finance & Economics at Columbia Business School

Jonah Rockoff, Associate Professor of Finance & Economics at Columbia Business School and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic research. His research interests include teacher hiring practices, the impact of No Child Left Behind and school desegregation. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University.

Tim Sass
Distinguished University Professor in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University

Tim Sass is a Distinguished University Professor in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. He is also a senior researcher with the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER). His primary fields of interest are the economics of education, applied microeconomics, industrial organization and public choice. His current research focuses on the effects of educational policies on student achievement and educational attainment. In recent work he has analyzed charter schools, classroom peer effects, National Board certification of teachers, school accountability, teacher training and teacher mobility.

Melody Schopp
South Dakota Secretary of Education

Secretary of Education, Dr. Melody Schopp is a lifelong educator with 23 years of classroom teaching prior to coming to the Department of Education in 2000. Schopp worked in a number of different roles in the Department to include Deputy Secretary and was appointed as Cabinet Secretary by Governor Daugaard in 2011. 

Deb Soholt
South Dakota State Senator

South Dakota State Senator Deb Soholt from Sioux Falls is Chair of the Senate Education Committee and in 2015 was Co-Chair of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force for Education Funding Reform ( that resulted in a historic infusion of financial support for teachers and education innovation.  As a citizen legislator, she is a Registered Nurse and works fulltime as the Director of Women’s Health within a large health system.   

Matthew G. Springer
Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College

Matthew G. Springer is an assistant professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. His research interests involve the impact of policy on resource allocation decisions and student outcomes, studies of the impact of performance-based incentives on student achievement and teacher turnover, mobility, and quality, and the impact of educator evaluation systems on educator outcomes. He is widely published in journals and is the editor of several books on school finance and economics.

Antwan Wilson
Former Superintendent of Oakland Unified School District (OUSD)

Antwan Wilson is committed to working with the community to transform OUSD into the premiere urban school district. Under his leadership, the District has prioritized effective talent program development, school site support, and quality community school improvement. An educator for over 20 years, Antwan has served in various roles, leading successful work in school turnaround resulting in dramatic improvements in academic achievement, graduation and college acceptance rates. In addition to earning an advanced degree in School Leadership from Friends University and graduating with Distinction from Nebraska Wesleyan University, Antwan is a graduate of The Broad Academy class of 2014. He and his wife have been married for 18 years and have three children who attend public schools.