Trendbook Excerpt: Baby Boomers’ Retirement May Create a Labor Shortage

This is an excerpt from the Equity and Justice Outlook chapter in the 2018-2019 NAIS Trendbook.

By Caroline G. Blackwell and Amada Torres

About a quarter of today’s workforce are part of the 74-million strong baby-boom generation. The oldest boomers turned 72 in 2018, and the youngest are in their early 50s. About 41 million are still working.

These aging trends will affect K-12 education. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education predicted that 1.6 million teachers would retire within the decade. Researchers have been discussing teacher shortages across the country, particularly in subjects such as special education, mathematics, science, and bilingual/English learner education and in locales with lower wages and poorer working conditions.

Projections of shortages are based on declines in enrollment in teacher education programs, student enrollment growth, efforts to reduce student-teacher ratios, and the ongoing high attrition rates among teachers. Around the country, states are also reporting shortages in professional roles outside the classroom. School counselors, speech and language pathologists, librarians, social workers, and general administrators are among the educators in short supply.

However, all types of schools may not be affected in the same way. On average, teachers at charter schools tend to be younger (37.4 years old) than their counterparts in traditional public schools (42.6 years old) and in private schools (43.8 years old). Principals tend to be older on average than the teaching workforce, and the average age for private school principals (51.7 years) is higher than for public school principals (48 years).
Teachers by Age Group
Recent NAIS research shows that independent schools may experience a similar wave of retirements. Preliminary results of the 2018 NAIS surveys of heads and boards found that close to three in 10 heads were 60 years old or older, and 26 percent of board chairs were in the same age group. Also, while NAIS doesn’t collect age information for independent school teachers, data from NAIS’s Data and Analysis for School Leadership (DASL) show that in 2017-2018, 28.2 percent of all teachers had 21 years of experience or more, making highly experienced teachers the largest cohort. Ultimately, aging in the teacher and head of school population and the “younging” of certain states’ populations (Utah, Alaska, the District of Columbia, and Texas all had median ages below 35 in 2016) will create both challenges and opportunities for schools regionally and nationally.

Teachers by Experience

The Trendbook, NAIS’s annual guide to issues affecting independent schools, includes research, data, strategic questions, action steps, and resources. Read about additional trends in enrollment, financial aid, leadership, teaching and learning, and more in the 2018-2019 NAIS Trendbook, available in the NAIS Bookstore.