Migrant Teachers investigates an overlooked trend in U.S. schools today: the growing reliance on teachers trained overseas. This timely study maps the shifting landscape of American education, as federal mandates require K-12 schools to employ qualified teachers or risk funding cuts. Lora Bartlett asserts that a narrowly technocratic view of teachers as subject specialists has spurred some public school districts to look abroad. When these districts use overseas-trained teachers as transient, migrant labor, the teachers have little opportunity to connect well with their students, thereby reducing the effectiveness of their teaching.
Approximately 90,000 teachers from the Philippines, India, and other countries came to the United States between 2002 and 2008. These educators were primarily recruited by inner-city school districts that have traditionally struggled to attract teachers. From the point of view of school administrators, these are excellent employees. They are well educated, experienced, and able to teach in areas like math, science, and special education where teachers are in short supply.
Despite the additional recruitment of qualified teachers, American schools are failing to reap the possible benefits of the global labor market. Bartlett shows how the framing of these recruited teachers as stopgap, low-status workers cultivates a high-turnover, low-investment workforce that undermines the conditions needed for good teaching and learning. Bartlett calls on schools to provide better support to both overseas-trained teachers and their American counterparts. Migrant Teachers asks us to consider carefully how we define teachers’ work, distribute the teacher workforce, and organize schools for effective teaching and learning.