Survey: Less than half of U.S. teachers say they’d tell younger selves to enter profession

Thursday Morning Coffee: A third of teachers say they’re considering quitting, underlining a nationwide shortage

By: - June 15, 2023 7:24 am
Drazen Zigic/Getty Images

(Drazen Zigic/Getty Images)

Less than half of U.S. teachers who responded to a new survey said they’d advise their younger selves to enter the profession, and a third are considering quitting.

The responses to the survey released  Wednesday by Massachusetts-based Merrimack College further underline a teacher shortage that’s impacted school districts from coast to coast, and here in Pennsylvania.

Forty-six percent of the K-12 educator respondents to the survey said they’d be “fairly” or “very likely” to choose teaching again, while 35% said they were considering leaving the profession entirely, according to the poll, which was conducted by Merrimack’s Winston School of Education and Social Policy in conjunction with the nonprofit and nonpartisan EdWeek Research Center.

Forty-two percent of respondents also told pollsters that their “mental health negatively impacts their work,” amid attacks on public school educators and as fights over curricula rage in school board meetings nationwide.

“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,” Merrimack Dean Deborah Margolis said in a statement.

“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,” Margolis said.

(Image via Pittsburgh City Paper.)

Pennsylvania policymakers have advanced a number of remedies to try to fight the staffing crisis in the Keystone State.

They include stipends for student teachers, and a measure that would encourage paraprofessionals and other school support staff to go back to college to obtain their teaching credentials.

“The program would equip aspiring educators with the supports necessary to ultimately become a certified educator,” the measure’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, said when the bill cleared a House committee in April.

The full House approved Schlossberg’s bill on May 1. It’s now before the Republican-controlled Senate’s Education Committee.

“Recognizing the decline in the number of people seeking a teaching certification in this Commonwealth and that this Commonwealth has one of the least diverse educator workforces in the country, we need to increase the pipeline of high-quality and diverse future educators,” Schlossberg continued.

A recent analysis shows that Pennsylvania issued a record-low number of teacher certificates — 4,220 for in-state graduates of teacher preparation programs — during the 2021-22 school year, according to Penn State University associate professor Ed Fuller, who released the research.

(Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

The new poll isn’t all doom and gloom, however.

The percentage of teachers who said they were very satisfied with their jobs nearly doubled to 20%, and the ranks of respondents who said they were thinking about leaving dropped from 44% to the current 35%.

And more teachers said they felt they were respected by the public and were being treated as professionals compared to last year’s study.

When they were asked what concrete steps that school districts could take to support their mental wellbeing, the most frequently cited solutions 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,” Merrimack Associate Dean Russell Olwell said in a statement.

“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 said.

Pollsters sampled the opinions of 1,178 K-12 teachers nationwide between Jan. 15 and Jan. 25 of this year. The poll had a margin of error of 3%.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.