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Teacher Shortages in the Mississippi Delta: An Analysis of the Breadth, Contributing Factors, and Potential Solutions 

May 2017

The Walton Family Foundation commissioned this study of teacher shortages in the lower Mississippi River Delta region of Arkansas and Mississippi, to enumerate their scope and dimensions, identify underlying causes, and develop recommendations to better track, understand, and mitigate future teacher shortages. The Foundation provided the following questions which guided our research:  

  1. Current supply and demand: What is the trend of demand for teachers, the supply of those teachers, and the effectiveness of the teachers employed? What does this tell us about the needs of the schools moving forward?  

  2. Recruitment or attrition: What is the primary cause of shortages (if they exist)? What are the social, demographic, and economic trends impacting recruitment and attrition? What are the reasons for the attrition? 

  3. Profile of the counties: Are there certain schools or districts that are experiencing a shortage? What are the demographics of those districts? Are there certain subjects or grades proving to be most difficult to recruit?  

  4. Strong Retention: Are there any schools or districts who are having success recruiting and retaining quality teachers, and what are the practices leading to that success? 

  5. Context: How do findings relate to recent national trends?  

Recommended next steps: What are some of the options based on the research for addressing the issues?  


Principal Investigator: Dr. John Weathers


Dave Taylor

Nancy Burns

Vivian Watt



Fab Foundation

Franklin Institute

Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM (TIES)

World Learning

Funding Source: The Walton Family Foundation

Start Date: May, 2017
Duration: 1.5 Years
Total Award: $196,482
Location: Regional (Arkansas & Mississippi)
Fiscal Agent: 21PSTEM
Principal Investigator: Dr. John Weathers
Partners:  Dr. Hsien Yuan Hsu, University of Massachusetts - Lowell 

Dr. Richard Ingersoll, University of Pennsylvania 


Baker, J., Weathers, J., Boruch, R., & Merlino, F. J. (2016). Teacher Churn in Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. Presentation for the Center for Developing Urban Educational Leaders, Lehigh University.  


Boruch, R., Bowdon, J., Baker, J., Chao, J., Park, J. E., Merlino, F.J., Musa, R., Taylor, D. and Oshotse, A. (2015).  Case Studies on Identifying, Acquiring, and Understanding Public Records on Public School Teachers in Eight States and the Biggest Cities in them.  Working Paper/Briefing: API Cases Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, and Conshohocken: 21PSTEM (5/5/2015). 


Merlino, F. J., & Musa, R. (2015). Teacher Role Instability in Pennsylvania. Conshohocken, PA: The 21st Century Partnership for STEM Education.


Park, J. E., Boruch, R., Musa, R., and Chao, J. (2015) Record Matching in the Absence of Unique and Consistent Numerical Identifiers for Teachers in State’s Public Records: A Briefing. Working Paper, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania.  


Weathers, J., & Baker, J. (2015). Teacher Positional Instability in the Philadelphia Public School System and the Potential Impact on Interventions to Improve Student Achievement. School District of Philadelphia’s Research, Policy, and Practice Conference, sponsored by the REL Mid-Atlantic. 


Weathers, J., Baker, J., Taylor, D., Merlino, F. J., & Boruch, R. (October, 2015). An introduction to ambient positional instability (API) through four illustrative cases. Presentation at the Northeast Educational Research Association (NERA), Trumbull, CT. 



Weathers, J., Baker, J., Taylor, D., Merlino, F.J., & Boruch, R. (2015). New Approaches to Measuring Teacher Positional Change (Teacher Ambient Positional Instability): Lessons Learned from a Multistate Effort. Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Data Conference, Washington, D.C.  


Weathers, J., Baker, J., Taylor, D., Merlino, F. J., & Boruch, R. (July, 2016). Barriers to analyzing within-school teacher movement in state administration data. Presentation at the Institute of Education Sciences and National Center for Educational Statistics Annual Data Conference, Washington, D.C. 


Weathers, J., Taylor, D., Baker, J., Merlino, F. J., & Boruch, R. (April, 2016).Elementary and secondary teacher position changes within and across schools: An analysis of Texas state administrative data. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C. 

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