The coronavirus has upended the U.S. economy and education system in ways few would have imagined just two months ago. State and local leaders now know that millions of students are losing academic ground. What they don’t yet know is how serious the academic slide will be and how prepared schools will be to respond. State and local policy leaders will rely on data to help them plan in real time.
States have canceled or postponed assessments, so data on student performance will be scarce for some time. Even so, researchers predict that students could lose up to a year of learning. Schools will need all hands on deck to help students make up lost ground as quickly as possible. Fortunately, public data sources can offer timely insights on whether schools will have the staff to meet this challenge.
Data on Job Postings
If job postings are any measure, schools might not have all the teachers they need when they reopen their doors. In the past decade, companies that specialize in labor market data have created online tools that comb through millions of job postings in real time to estimate trends in the job market. One such company, Emsi, released a free, online Job Postings Dashboard that allows users to compare job posting trends in 2019 to 2020 trends. (Emsi is part of the Strada Education Network, a partner of Education Commission of the States.)
A quick review of postings for teaching jobs suggests that the spring hiring season hasn’t started yet. In 2019, job postings soared between February and June. So far this year, they have flatlined:
These findings echo a recent survey of district leaders, which found that 48% of superintendents and other administrators had not yet made decisions about hiring teachers for the fall. Only 22% said that coronavirus had not affected their hiring plans. These hiring delays could exacerbate perennial shortages of teachers in areas like career and technical education or special education.
Leaders can use the Job Postings Dashboard, which includes new data every day, to investigate conditions in their own states or school districts.
Data From Unemployment Insurance Claims
Weekly unemployment data raise further concerns about shortages of teachers in the fall. The staggering unemployment numbers in the news come from unemployment insurance data, which states report every week. Many states release more detailed analyses of those data, breaking them out by categories like age, gender, industry, education level and occupation.
Minnesota’s new public dashboard of weekly unemployment insurance statistics reveals that the state’s educators have not escaped the pandemic’s economic fallout. Between March 16 and April 11, 5,682 Minnesotans who formerly held jobs in education, training and library services filed for unemployment. That’s 51% more than the 3,743 who applied for unemployment benefits in all of 2019. More than 2,000 of the newly unemployed identified themselves as early childhood or K-12 teachers.
Nevada’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation is also releasing frequent analyses of unemployment insurance claims in the state. They, too, show a sharp rise in claims among those who held education, training and library jobs.
Imperfect as they are, data sources such as these can help state and local leaders anticipate districts’ and schools’ needs as the next school year approaches. State and local leaders are responding on the fly to the extraordinary shocks of a global pandemic. When the dust settles, timely data can help them assess the scope of their hiring challenge and plan strategies — such as online recruitment — to address it.
Claus oversees efforts to improve statewide longitudinal data systems and provide state-by-state data on STEM education. He has held senior positions in education policy and research for more than 17 years and has spent much of that time helping diverse stakeholders find consensus on important education issues. Claus is dedicated to ensuring that state leaders have the information and guidance they need to make the best possible decisions affecting young people.