The teaching profession is in crisis; it’s our collective responsibility to help
By Rebecca Parshall, PhD
It’s becoming an all too familiar story: teachers are leaving the profession at high rates, entering at low rates, and many school districts are struggling to fill open positions. And it’s no surprise as to why. A recent RAND study found that, nationally, teachers experience two times as much “frequent, job-related stress” as the overall workforce.
A similar pattern of teacher burnout holds true in Georgia, and it bears consequences: a recent Professional Association of Georgia’s Educators’ survey found that only about half of Georgia’s teachers plan to remain in the profession for five more years. Regardless of whether that many teachers leave Georgia’s classrooms over the next several years, their discontent with current working conditions sends a urgent message to those of us who depend on the success of our education systems (that is, all of us).
Here’s why – teachers have the single largest in-school effect on students’ academic outcomes, and play a significant role in students’ development in other areas, such as growth mindset. Teacher turnover negatively affects students and schools. Supporting teachers so they feel good about staying in classrooms is critical to our recovery from the pandemic and is our collective responsibility.
Learn4Life’s middle grade math network is working to support teacher retention as a critical lever to improve math proficiency. This summer, Learn4Life’s team learned from school district HR leaders about our region’s challenges and ongoing district initiatives. Here is a sample of what we heard…
- Math, science, special education, and English Language Learner teachers remain hardest to staff.
- Over the last several years, early career teachers have been leaving at the highest rates.
- The top reason metro Atlanta teachers are leaving is because they feel the workload is not doable.
- There’s great variation in vacancies across metro Atlanta’s districts.
Metro Atlanta school districts are responding to teacher voices by working to build strategies in the following areas:
- Reducing workload and offering flexibility – this includes hiring additional support staff to cover non-instructional time and developing innovative schedules that give teachers more time.
- Developing career and leadership pathways – transparency about growth and advancement opportunities is common in most sectors, and only emerging within education.
- Wellness initiatives – honoring teachers as whole people who benefit from support structures and celebration is one component of retention.
- School-based plans – conducting frequent “pulse-check” surveys provide data for school administrators to respond to proactively.
In the coming months, L4L will partner with districts to select one of these strategies for regional collaboration. As an asset-based organization, we believe we can accomplish more by working together and by amplifying strategies that are already showing promise. In this critical moment in public education, we need to show up and support our teachers like they do each day for our students.
If you are interested in joining L4L’s conversation around teacher retention, please email email@example.com. All are welcome to join L4L’s Change Action Networks. We’d love to have your voice at the table.
Rebecca Parshall is the Director of Strategy at Learn4Life, metro Atlanta’s educational collective impact initiative.