It’s Who You Know: Teacher Preferences, Social Networks, and the Job Search Processes
Huriya Jabbar

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Texas

Primary Discipline

Educational Policy
Teachers are the most important school-level variable for predicting students’ educational and professional outcomes, yet great inequities in the distribution of teacher quality remain across schools. Understanding teachers’ job preferences provides insight into the general disparities in teacher quality. Existing research has examined teachers’ revealed preferences, the characteristics of the schools that they leave or enter in their actual movements between schools. But little research examines teachers’ expressed preferences, the schools they seek to apply to, or their decision-making processes. Most research on mobility also treats teachers as rational independent agents, but a large body of work in sociology has shown that social networks influence job search behavior, and the job-search process matters as much as a job’s attributes. Without understanding such context, theories of teacher job searches rely on untested assumptions, and policymakers may miss key opportunities to influence teachers’ decisions for the better.Furthermore, most existing research has been conducted in traditional school districts. Yet cities with large shares of charter schools are seeing structural changes to teacher labor markets. Charter schools operate under less rigid state guidelines, have greater flexibility in hiring and compensation, and exist in markets where school districts are no longer the only hiring agency, so they might significantly change local teacher labor markets or attract different types of teachers to the field. Several cities, often called “portfolio districts,” now have large proportions of teachers working in charter schools.This study examines the process by which teachers find and choose to apply to jobs in portfolio districts, asking: How do teachers find and choose to apply to jobs? Which schools do they consider? What are the layers of decisions that occur? What role do their social networks play? And how does this process vary for teachers at different stages in their careers or for those from different pathways? Using comparative case-study methods, I examine teacher job-search processes in districts with varying degrees of charter-school density. I compare teacher labor markets in San Antonio, Detroit, and New Orleans, all with moderate to high charter densities (26%, 55%, and 91% respectively), including in-depth interviews with 120 teachers.By elaborating teachers’ search processes and examining how social networks influence teacher hiring, this study adds to our theoretical understanding of teacher labor markets in portfolio districts. Previous studies have primarily examined where teachers are hired, not how they decided to apply to the position or to accept the offer. Understanding the contextual factors that shape teachers’ job decisions may explain the uneven distribution of highly qualified teachers, and identify potential areas for intervention.
About Huriya Jabbar
Huriya Jabbar is an assistant professor of Educational Policy and Planning at the University of Texas at Austin. She studies the social and political dimensions of market-based reforms and privatization in education. Her research has examined school choice policy, privatization, the politics of research use, and student decision-making in higher education. Her work has been published in the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Harvard Educational Review, and Educational Researcher. She was a 2013–2014 recipient of the National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship, which supported her study of school choice and competition in New Orleans. She received three awards for her dissertation from the American Educational Research Association’s Division L (Policy & Politics), Division A (Administration, Organization, & Leadership), and the Politics of Education Association special interest group. She is also a research associate at the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans at Tulane University, where she continues to study issues related to school choice in New Orleans. She received her PhD in Education Policy, Organization, Measurement, and Evaluation from the University of California, Berkeley.

Pin It on Pinterest