SNEAK PEEK – National poll of public school teachers provides important insight into teacher shortage, their major concerns, and possible solutions
A new national survey of more than 1,200 public school teachers, conducted by The Harris Poll and commissioned by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, examined teachers’ experiences and opinions to learn more about their motivations for entering, staying in, or leaving the classroom, as well as the challenges they believe are facing the American public education system.
Among initial key findings from the poll, data suggest public school teachers—in both district and charter public schools—are more concerned about student behavior and discipline issues than they are about pay. Another near-universal point of agreement: the politicization of education is not playing well in the classroom. Ninety percent of teachers agreed they are caught in the crossfire of a culture war, while they just want to teach. There is also a stark contrast in the experiences of district and charter school teachers, with respect to job satisfaction and the motivation to remain in the classroom over time. The full report will be released in late summer.
“We owe an immense debt of gratitude to teachers. We must listen to what they are telling us and do more to support them. Together with parents, they are the backbone of education and deserve encouragement, resources, and recognition for continuing to serve students well, even in the face of ongoing challenges,” said Nina Rees, CEO and President of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
“It looks like there is something interesting happening in charter schools and it’s helping to create conditions for happier teachers who can keep their motivation high, even in tough times,” said Debbie Veney, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and author of the report. “These findings suggest there might be practices in charter schools that could be replicated to better support teachers in other kinds of schools.”
Highlights on teacher insights from the survey of 1,211 public school teachers nationwide, conducted from May 10 – May 30, 2023 include:
Something Has to Change
American public school teachers are in crisis mode—many report feeling overwhelmed, burned out, and worried and do not feel the public education system in this country supports and motivates them. Teachers face significant challenges including student behavior/discipline and unsatisfactory pay. Across the board, teachers feel something needs to change in public education in order to retain and recruit teachers.
- Nearly all public school teachers (97%) say they wish people understood how demanding it is to be a teacher.
- Overall, U.S. public school teachers say being a teacher in America in the past few years has made them feel overwhelmed (72%), burned out (67%), and worried/anxious (58%).
- Public school teachers cite student behavior and discipline issues (74%) as the top challenge they believe teachers currently face, followed by pay (65%).
Keep Politics Out of the Classroom
Politics matters to public school teachers, but they don’t want it to infringe on their ability to teach effectively. A vast majority of public school teachers agree public education needs more government funding but fewer government mandates (96%) and regardless of political beliefs, there is solidarity when it comes to education (83%). Interestingly, though school choice is often thought to be a polarizing topic, the majority of public school teachers, both district and charter, support public school choice, and believe it to be important to families and teachers alike.
- 92% of public school teachers say they vote in state/local or federal elections, and nearly all report it is important to them that a political candidate’s platform includes educational reforms (97%).
- Teachers say they just want to teach (94%) and report feeling like they have gotten caught in the crossfire of a culture war (91%). Teachers overwhelmingly feel politicians and decision-makers should listen more to students, families, and teachers (97%).
- Nearly all public school teachers (97%) agree one size does not fit all when it comes to educating children, with district teachers being more likely to agree (98% vs. 89% charter teachers).
- Another 4 in 5 agree regardless of its politicized nature, public school choice is important for both families and teachers (79% total; 87% charter; 78% district) and having more than one type of public school option is a good thing (69% total; 90% charter; 67% district).
Teaching Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
Teaching is a high calling. Most public school teachers in America agree it’s more than a job – it is a part of their identity. Though initially inspired to join the profession by a purpose-driven motive, the intensity of these motivations appears to diminish over time and with more real-world exposure to the realities of the teaching profession. Many teachers report feeling less motivated now than when they initially became a teacher. For some, this lack of motivation may be causing them to consider leaving the profession entirely.
- Nearly two-fifths (39%) of public school teachers have either seriously considered leaving the profession in the past or are planning to do so by the end of the year.
- Though only 7% of respondents say they are motivated to teach because it pays well, 84% of public school teachers believe higher pay and better benefits would help teachers feel more motivated to stay in the profession.
- The vast majority of district (97%) and charter teachers (88%) say they understand why other teachers have left the profession.
There’s Something Special About the Experience of Charter School Teachers
Though district schools and charter schools are both public schools, teachers’ experiences appear to vary considerably depending on the type of public school setting in which they teach. Charter school teachers are more satisfied both with their jobs overall, and their motivation to teach seems to grow more, the longer they are in the classroom.
- Generally speaking, charter schools boast high satisfaction among teachers. Nearly all charter teachers (97%) say they are satisfied in their job as a teacher, a significantly higher proportion than district teachers (83%).
- Charter school teachers are more apt to agree being a teacher is the most rewarding job in the world (90% vs. 74% among district teachers) and by being a teacher, they feel like they are fulfilling their true purpose in life (92% vs. 84%).
- 79% of charter school teachers say they are as or more motivated than when they initially entered the profession (vs. 34% among district teachers), whereas 66% of district teachers report feeling less motivated now than before (vs. 20% of charter teachers).
- Charter school teachers are significantly more likely to report they feel their current school’s culture aligns with their values and beliefs about education (96% feel this aligns well vs. 75% among district teachers). They are much more likely to feel valued by their school administration (90% vs. 68% among district teachers), feel their school / district administrators are receptive to feedback or ideas that come from teachers (87% vs. 67%), and report their school ensures they are given the tools they need to meet student needs (82% vs. 69%).
The research was conducted online from May 10 to May 30, 2023, in the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools among 1,211 public school teachers.
A full report with much more data will be released in August 2023. For more information and to speak with a National Alliance expert, please email Jennifer Diaz at firstname.lastname@example.org.