Teachers would think twice about encouraging their younger selves to pursue education--a startling finding about teacher morale.

Survey highlights troubling teacher morale issues

Teachers would think twice about encouraging their younger selves to pursue education--a startling finding

Key points:

  • Most teachers would not choose a teaching career again
  • Nearly half of teachers say poor mental health is impacting their work

Only 46 percent of current public K-12 educators would be “fairly” or “very likely” to advise their younger selves to choose teaching again, according to a new survey that shines a spotlight on a pressing crisis facing U.S. education.

More than one-third (35 percent) of educators are considering leaving the profession altogether. This is according to the 2023 Merrimack College Teacher Survey, which was conducted by the Winston School of Education and Social Policy at Merrimack College.

While the survey paints a dark picture overall for American public K-12 education, there are areas that have seen notable improvements since last year’s study. The percentage of teachers who are very satisfied with their jobs has nearly doubled to 20 percent, and the percentage of teachers considering leaving the profession within the next two years has dropped from 44 percent to 35 percent. Additionally, more teachers now report feeling respected by the public and being treated as professionals than in last year’s study.

Despite these positive trends, most teachers still would not advise their younger selves to pursue the profession, and measures of teacher autonomy remain stagnant. The survey highlights the ongoing impact of the pandemic on mental health, with 42 percent of teachers reporting their mental health and wellness negatively affects their work.

“While this should serve as a flashing red light to educational policymakers, the survey also provides insights into strategies that educational administrators and policymakers can employ to address this,” said Dean Deborah Margolis. “By prioritizing teacher mental health and wellbeing, and taking steps to build teacher morale, academic leaders can help create a healthier and happier school environment and retain more of their teachers.”

The survey provides clear guidance about how these learnings can be incorporated into teacher and school administrative programs. According to the study, “about 1 in 3 teachers say their principals provide some or a lot of concrete support for teacher mental health and wellness. But just 1 in 10 teachers whose mental health is having a very negative impact on their work say the same.”

The study specifically surveyed teachers on steps that schools or districts could take to support their mental well-being. The most frequently cited responses were:

  • A pay raise or bonus to reduce financial stress (67%)
  • Smaller class sizes (62%)
  • More/better support for student discipline-related issues (62%)
  • Fewer administrative burdens associated with meetings and paperwork (57%)
  • More acknowledgement of good work/hard work/successes (54%)

“This study has given districts the kind of concrete insights that they can use to support their teachers and improve their retention,” said Associate Dean Russell Olwell. “With this survey, we wanted to go beyond just highlighting the challenges, and start looking at how we can leverage this work to support educators and educational leaders.” He added: “As a result of what we are seeing in K-12 schools, Merrimack College has launched several new programs to address teacher and student wellness, including coursework in mental health first aid, social emotional learning for educators, and a wellness professional development series through the Merrimack Institute for New Teacher Support.”

The survey, which was administered between January 15-25 of this year, collected responses from 1,178 K-12 public school teachers in the United States, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3% at a 95% confidence level.

This press release originally appeared online.

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