As the difficulties of the last two school years linger, external pressures have compounded the stress on educators already dealing with burnout, concerns over school budget cuts, and short staffing.
TPT conducted a national survey of over 1,200 teachers* as they prepare for the 2022-23 school year, to uncover key external pressures impacting teacher retention and attraction to the profession. The findings offer national and regional insights into teachers’ perspectives on issues at the forefront of the education conversation, from teacher autonomy and curriculum restrictions to stakeholder groups that cause pressure on educators.
Teachers don’t feel respected.
Returning for the 2022-23 school year, nearly two-thirds (65%) of educators say there is less respect for the teaching profession than two years ago.
Teacher autonomy looks different than it did two years ago.
A little more than half of teachers (56%) reported they have a moderate level of autonomy in their classroom to choose what and how they teach. When digging deeper into the topic, nearly 60% of teachers reported a shift in how much autonomy they have as educators in the last two years, with 40% reporting having less autonomy now and 18% reporting having more.
Curriculum restrictions are impacting teacher retention.
Nearly 90% of teachers reported that U.S. states’ and school districts’ restrictions around the teaching of particular issues or the use of particular curricula has resulted in teachers leaving the profession, with 59% saying that this has definitely happened and 29% feeling it has to some degree. Teachers also believe that such restrictions are affecting people’s interest in joining the profession, with 39% saying it definitely has, and 40% saying it has to some degree.
Though the majority of respondents believe curriculum restrictions have impacted teacher retention, educators’ open-ended survey responses highlight varying perspectives on the matter. While some teachers maintain that the restriction of certain topics or curricula demonstrate a lack of trust in educators’ expertise, others believe these restricted topics have no place in the classroom.
Politicians and parents are leading causes of teachers’ stress.
In answering which stakeholder groups were the biggest sources of stress to teachers, nearly 40% of teachers named politicians as a cause of “a lot of stress” in their job. Parents are another group that affect teachers often, with 36% of teachers reporting they cause them “a lot of stress” and another 56% saying that they cause “some stress.”
One-third of educators also reported that social media and the news cause “a lot of stress.” Interestingly, school leadership and school boards were reported as the lowest contributors to “a lot of stress.”
The effects of these pressures vary, depending on where teachers live.
It is no surprise that educators’ geographic location affected their responses to questions regarding external pressures. In the past year, states have varied in their approaches to addressing curriculum restrictions, teacher autonomy and more. When looking at the data by region of the country, additional insights emerged.
Teachers in the South were more likely to believe there is less respect for teachers than two years ago. Additionally, states where a high proportion of teachers reported there is now less respect for the profession included Florida (74%) and Texas (71%), as well as Pennsylvania (77%). In comparison, teachers in California and New York reported they felt there was less respect for the profession at 53% and 56% respectively.
Teachers in the Northeast were most likely to report they have more autonomy than two years ago, as opposed to teachers in the South who report they now have less autonomy. Southern teachers were also less likely to report satisfaction with their level of autonomy over how and what they teach.
When asked whether U.S. states’ and school districts’ restricting the teaching of particular issues or the use of particular curricula resulted in teachers leaving the profession, over half of all teachers from every region of the country said “yes, definitely.”
And when asked about which stakeholders cause stress for teachers, again the data uncovered distinct regional differences. For instance, teachers in the Midwest were more likely to report that parents caused them “a lot of stress” while teachers in the South were more likely to report that politicians do.
Regardless of location, educators are headed back to the classroom facing many of the same challenges as the last school year, heightened by ongoing pressures and debates over autonomy, curriculum restrictions and a feeling of lessening respect. These findings are critical to understanding the factors affecting people’s decisions to join or stay in the teaching profession.
This special report is part of TPT’s State of Education research series.
*Survey Methodology: TPT sent the State of Education survey to a sample of active TPT teacher users via email on July 5, 2022 to gather teachers’ opinions in advance of the 2022/23 school year. Specifically, teachers were asked about factors putting pressures on them and whether they believe those factors are impacting attraction and retention of people in the teaching profession. Regions were identified by cross-referencing census classifications and using teachers’ self-reported state to indicate the region in which it is located (i.e., South, West, Northeast, and Midwest). The survey was completed by 1,270 teachers across U.S. schools. The margin of error is +/-3 percentage points.