Recruiting and retaining teachers for schools in rural areas or in areas with high concentrations of poverty is a challenge around the world, and many governments have implemented policies to make working in hard-to-staff schools more attractive, either to teachers overall or to the most effective teachers. This systematic review provides new empirical evidence on the relative quality of education in hard-to-staff schools, with lower teacher skill and higher teacher absenteeism in rural areas in many countries. The review then synthesizes the results of 15 experimental and quasi-experimental studies of policies to increase the quantity or improve the quality of staffing in hard-to-staff schools. The most evaluated policies—by far—are financial incentives. Financial incentives are often effective at increasing the supply and reducing the turnover of teachers in hard-to-staff schools, and incentives designed to increase the quality of teachers in hard-to-staff schools can be successful. Impacts on student learning and attendance are likewise mostly positive. Although there are fewer evaluations, behavioral and informational interventions are highly cost-effective in reducing vacancies. There is limited evidence either in favor or against the effectiveness of other policies, even though countries use a wide range of programs to draw teachers to hard-to-staff schools.
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