What will it take to attract the next generation of teachers?
New report from SREB and Vanderbilt University offers insight on how the profession can change to welcome Gen Z

News SREB News Release

The Next Generation of Teachers: A Study of Generation Z’s Interest in the Teaching Profession reports on a new study by the Southern Regional Education Board and Vanderbilt University researchers. The study points to promising solutions that could lead to a larger, more diverse and better prepared pool of younger educators in the near future: 
•    Expand early recruitment in high school
•    Improve and expand alternative pathways 
•    Dedicate support for new teachers

“We know it isn’t easy to think about the future when schools are focused on putting a teacher in the classroom today. But if we don’t broaden our horizon, we’re setting ourselves up for even worse problems tomorrow,” said SREB President Stephen L. Pruitt. “We have got to think ahead, because the changes that work won’t happen overnight.”

Takeaways from the Research 
Interest in teaching careers
High school students’ interest in education careers has steadily declined since 2005.   

  • Students interested in education are predominantly white and female, and they have lower SAT scores than their peers.  

High school intro-to-teaching courses
Enrollment and demographic trends for high school career pathway courses in teaching show promise. 

  • The number of students taking introductory teaching courses in Tennessee high schools increased by 500% since 2014 and in Kentucky by 120% since 2018. 
  • Half of Gen Z educators decided before college that they wanted to be teachers, so expanding and improving these courses could reinforce the pipeline.

Alternative preparation

More teachers are entering the profession through non-traditional or alternative preparation programs, which serve the need of a large pool of potential educators. (A traditional teacher preparation pathway is a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education. Alternative pathways offer training options for those without a degree in education.)

Male teachers, teachers of color and older teachers are more likely to enter the profession through alternative routes.

  • Traditional preparation declined and alternative preparation increased in the U.S. from 2012 to 2020.
  • The share of newly hired teachers who completed alternative prep rose 70% in Kentucky and 91% in Tennessee between 2017 and 2022.

Ideas for progress 

The report surfaces ways to act on the research, from recruiting to preparation to ongoing support for teachers. Other states can look to Tennessee and Kentucky for inspiration in collecting and studying student and teacher data. 

“Our aim is that this report will help education and policy leaders make teaching an attractive profession for younger generations,” said SREB Project Manager Megan Boren, one of the report’s authors. “It should give states a way to look at their own data and surface ideas for further research as well.”

About the Report

The Next Generation of Teachers: A Study of Generation Z’s interest in the Teaching Profession is based on a study by the Southern Regional Education Board and the Tennessee Education Research Alliance at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education, with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The study examined ACT survey data about high school students’ intentions and included a review of existing literature on the topic. Researchers analyzed data from Kentucky and Tennessee, two states that link student and teacher data, disaggregated by demographics and other variables. They also interviewed Gen Z teacher candidates and newly hired teachers. 

Up Next: Labor Force Study

Teacher Labor Market Trends, a second report from SREB and Vanderbilt, will analyze data on turnover, preparation, demographics, salaries and more. It will be published later this spring.

Contact: Janita Poe, SREB News Manager, at Janita.Poe@sreb.org or 404-879-5516, ext. 216

The Southern Regional Education Board works with states, districts and schools to improve education at every level, from early childhood through doctoral education and the workforce. An interstate compact and a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Atlanta, SREB was created in 1948 by Southern governors and legislators to advance education and improve the social and economic life of the region.