Earlier this week, I met with a small group of NEA state affiliate presidents and executive directors to discuss a convening we are planning that will address the shortage of teachers that communities across the nation are experiencing.

A recent Rand Corporation survey revealed some interesting, if disturbing, information regarding job related stress and its effect on the supply of teachers.  Among the key findings:

  • Prior to the pandemic, one in six teachers indicated that they were likely to leave the profession. Following the 2020-2021 school year, one in four have said that they are likely to leave the profession.
  • A higher proportion of teachers reported frequent job-related stress and depression than the general adult population.
  • Health and the mode of instruction were the highest ranked stressors for teachers during the recently completed school year.
  • One in three teachers were responsible for the care of their own children while teaching.

These finding come as no surprise to ND United members who experienced many of the same stressors while doing their work throughout the pandemic.  And job burnout is not exclusively a teacher related phenomenon.  Working through the pandemic has caused many employees across the economy to reach their breaking point and seek less stressful environments in which to work.  Still, it is important to understand why teachers are leaving the profession and why fewer individuals are not enrolling in our colleges of education.

Every year, some 200,000 teachers leave the profession.  Two out of three leave for reasons other than retirement.  Among those reasons identified by the Learning Policy Institute are:

  • Lack of Support for New Teachers. New teachers who do not receive mentoring are two times more likely to leave the classroom than those who do receive mentoring.
  • Challenging Work Conditions. Conditions including the lack of support from their administrators, and the lack of collaboration with colleagues are often cited as reasons for leaving teaching.
  • Dissatisfaction With Compensation. Beginning teachers earn some 20% less than individuals with college degrees in other fields, a wage gap that can widen to 30% for mid-career educators.
  • Better Career Opportunities. Twenty five percent of teachers who leave the profession say they do so to pursue other career opportunities.

Prior to the pandemic, I was convinced that North Dakota did not have a teacher shortage issue.  I looked at it as a recruitment and retention issue.  After all, a white paper on the subject showed that ND did, in fact, graduate enough educators to fill every open position in the state.  Now, however, with fewer individuals choosing a career in education and more teachers leaving the profession, it is time to reevaluate my earlier assessment.

Next week, I will share some of the takeaways from our convening as we look for solutions to an emerging and detrimental challenge to public education.