[Teacher Shortages] Over 950 Educators Share How Administrators Can Best Retain & Support Them
[Teacher Shortages] Over 950 Educators Share How Administrators Can Best Retain & Support Them
Teacher retention is more important now than ever, as administrators across the country are doing everything they can to keep great teachers happy and a part of their school district. We wanted to see exactly what teachers had to say about what their administrators could do better and what potential benefits would make them stay in their current positions, so we ran an anonymous poll on our blog to gather feedback.
These are the results from May 3, 2022, to July 1, 2022, from an anonymous survey on our blog, where we asked more than 950 of our amazing educator readers to share their feedback. Our goal for this blog post is to see exactly what teachers have to say about the potential benefits or changes that would make them stay in their current positions longer, the plans they have to stay or leave the teaching profession in the next five years, and the greatest challenges they feel educators are facing today.
Over 950 educators anonymously shared their thoughts with us with three main questions:
1. What benefit or change would make you more likely to remain at your current teaching position longer? [multiple-choice question]
2. Do you have plans to leave the teaching profession in the next five years? [multiple-choice question]
3. What is the greatest challenge facing educators today? [open, short response question]
Additionally, participants were also asked a few demographic questions—such as job title, years of teaching experience, and the grade levels they interact with—to provide more insight into the respondents.
Let’s look at what the educators who responded had to say, along with some key takeaways.
Note: The majority of respondents who selected "other" for their job title typically identified themselves as a school support role such as a paraprofessional, librarian, academic coach, etc.
What benefit or change would make you more likely to remain at your current teaching position longer? [multiple-choice question]
Educators were given 10 options for answer choices and were asked to select their top 3 choices, but they were able to select anywhere from 1 to 10 answers. Of the 957 educators who participated, respondents selected an average of 2.7 answers, yielding a total of 2559 responses. Let’s break down a few of these responses:
It’s no surprise that 68% of our respondents mentioned pay being the biggest benefit to keeping them in their position longer. While teaching can be rewarding in a variety of ways, at the end of the day, teachers are often underpaid for the work that they do and for the levels of education they hold. Teacher strikes are bringing teacher pay to the forefront of education policy in states across the nation.
Smaller class size
The second most popular benefit that respondents chose was smaller class size, with 31% of respondents indicating that smaller class size would likely make them stay in their current position longer. Large class sizes are one of the most common barriers to effective personalized instruction; after all, instructors simply don’t have the time or ability to be everywhere at once in their classrooms. Small size makes significant one-on-one time between instructors and their students feasible. Instructors get to know their students, understand their knowledge gaps and learning styles, and build relationships that motivate learning.
It’s important, however, to consider that class size is not always within the control of school leaders. In an article for Chalkbeat, Northwestern University economist Diane Schanzenbach explained: “The impact of smaller classes would depend on many factors, including whether funds are reduced for other student supports, the quality of the newly hired teachers needed to staff the smaller classes, and adequate availability of classroom space.”
More support staff
Also at 30%, the tied third most popular benefit that would keep educators in their current position longer is more support staff. In many cases, teachers are often stretched thin in the classroom, and they feel like they’re taking on the job duties of multiple people. We noticed, in many cases, that educators felt like they couldn’t handle everything that was expected of them in a classroom and often wanted other support staff they could rely on, such as classroom aides, paraprofessionals, school counselors, and ESL aides. According to research from NEA Today, education support professionals (ESP) can help impact student learning and performance when they are respected and included as workplace partners.
Improved school culture
Tied for third, 30% of respondents said improved school culture would likely make them stay in their current position longer. The tone of any school is often set by the staff, both educators and administrators. And, according to one professor and researcher from the University of Minnesota, “A culture built on the shared belief that students are capable of achievement is crucial to strong academics, closing the achievement gap and creating educational equity.” It’s definitely no surprise that an improved school culture is on educators’ minds.
Do you have plans to leave the teaching profession in the next five years? [multiple-choice question]
Educators were given five options for answer choices and were asked to select only the answer that they most identified with.
The graph above represents the distribution of answers across the 957 respondents as a whole. The graph below breaks down how respondents answered according to their experience level.
Of the 957 educators who responded to our survey, 40% indicated that they do not plan to leave to the teaching profession in the next five years. However, 32% of respondents answered they are considering leaving but have not yet made up their mind, and a combined 22% indicated they intend to leave the teaching profession in the next one to five years. Among the 6% of participants who responded “other,” many indicated their intentions to retire within the next 10 years.
What is the greatest challenge facing educators today? [open-ended response question]
Throughout the 957 educator responses to this open-ended question, 17 major categories were identified overall. Each response given was carefully read and subsequently categorized by the theme or themes that it most closely aligned with. Some responses aligned with more than one theme or category.
The top five categories we saw the feedback fall into are:
- Student Behavior / Student Discipline
- Lack of Respect
- Lack of Parent Support / Parent Involvement
- Burnout / Stress / Too Many Responsibilities
- Student Engagement / Student Apathy
What can administrators do?
The nationwide teacher and school staff shortage is a complicated, nuanced issue that impacts certain regions, various schools and districts, and specific subjects all around the country. There is no single root to the problem; instead, it’s the culmination of many contributing factors.
For school leaders currently facing challenges as the result of staffing shortages, or concerned with their teacher retention, it is certainly not an issue that can be solved with a single solution. Some solutions may even feel out of reach or beyond the scope of the district or school community.
But there’s still hope. There are steps school and district administrators can take to address the issues that cause teacher shortages, lessen the impact on students, and lay a foundation for an improved staffing situation in the future. This includes talking to local legislators, focusing on workplace culture, fighting burnout, and considering a virtual school partner to address staffing challenges.
Here are some additional resources to help you address some of the factors highlighted by educators who completed our survey.
For supporting positive school culture:
- [Education Leadership] Building Your School Community
- [Administrator Tips] 4 Simple Steps to Improve Your School Culture
- Thinking Outside the Box, Rewriting Mindsets, and Impacting School Culture
- How Teachers Can Establish Effective Classroom Culture from the First Day
- [Administrator Tips] Using Your Mission Statement to Build Shared Student Ownership
For supporting educators:
- Retention Is the New Recruitment and Other Teacher-Shortage Strategies
- 500 Educators Reveal How Administrators Can Better Support Them This School Year
- How Can Districts Better Support Educators Facing Burnout
- 3 Things to Keep in Mind When Budgeting for Next Year
- [Administrator Tips] 4 Steps to Planning for Next School Year
For supporting students:
- 5 Strategies to Help Boost Your Students’ Self-Esteem and Confidence in the Classroom
- How to Help Your Students Find and Maintain Enthusiasm All Year Long
- Attendance Awareness Month: 11 Quick Tips to Address Chronic Absence
- Equipping Educators to Teach the Whole Learner: Self-Knowledge and Compassion as Avenues to Success
- 4 SEL Skills Every Student Must Have for a Successful Grade Transition
- Transforming Suspension Practices Using Restorative Justice
For supporting parent/family involvement:
- A Teacher’s Perspective: How Parents Can Help
- 3 Reasons Why All Parents Should Be Involved in Their Child’s Education
- 6 Tips for Strengthening Parent-Teacher Relationships
- 9 Tips for Successful Parent-Teacher Communication
- How Schools and Families Can Work Together to Strengthen Students’ Social-Emotional Health
Interested in finding a virtual partner? Edmentum’s EdOptions Academy is a fully accredited virtual school that works with schools and districts to provide over 300 courses aligned to state standards—including career and technical education, world languages, and options for use with Advanced Placement®—paired with high-quality teachers certified in the state. Students can be enrolled in EdOptions Academy courses as needed, enabling our partners to provide the courses students want, the flexibility to quickly fill staffing gaps when needs arise, and the ability to retain student enrollment.