1 June 2022
Raleigh, N.C. — More North Carolina teachers indicate they’re on their way out of the education profession, according to a new survey from the state Department of Public Instruction.
The state released the preliminary results of its biennial Teacher Working Conditions Survey on Wednesday.
The survey reflects two years of working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic and nearly a year of staffing shortages at schools that have hampered everyday activities, as well as schools’ plans to help students catch up on their learning.
The results remained mostly positive, in that most teachers are planning to keep their jobs, most teachers feel supported by their schools and communities and most feel prepared to do their jobs.
However, the survey showed significant upticks since 2020 in teachers planning to quit, teachers who don’t believe school leaders are addressing their concerns, teachers who believe their professional development and instruction support needs are not being met, and teachers who believe they have enough time to do what they need to do. Survey results indicated most teachers are working several hours each week off the clock and that most believe their students were 6 months or more behind academically to start the school year.
The survey reflects “every they’ve been dealing with for the past two years,” Alessandro Montanari, assistant director for district and regional support at DPI, told the State Board of Education on Wednesday, during a presentation on the results.
The survey also showed teachers believe bullying and student fighting is far less of a problem than principals — most of whom believe they’re a problem — do.
State board of Education members Amy White and Olivia Oxendine urged schools to use the survey results toward improving school climate, including by sharing success stories.
Superintendent Catherine Truitt agreed, while emphasizing that school leaders need to actively respond to their own survey results.
“The onus is on district leadership and site-level leadership to do something with this data,” Truitt said.
Even if most teachers are largely satisfied with most of their working conditions, a continuance of the issues outlined in the survey and of the increased plans to leave education could hurt a profession already struggling to get the state’s 1.5 million public schoolchildren back on track and, eventually, testing on grade-level.
School leadership is the biggest identified factor — named by a third of teachers — in teachers’ decisions to keep or quit their jobs.
Increases to educator pay and proposals to do so even further could, according to experts, help with retention and recruitment but would not address the growing divides between teachers and school leaders exhibited in the survey.
Here’s some of what the survey showed:
- Near universal agreement that school leadership has attempted to address teacher concerns has dropped from more than 96% to just about three-quarters of teacher agreeing
- About 90% of principals and assistant principals (down from 92.6% in 2020) said they intended to continue working as principals and assistant principals, nearly 4,600 people. More than 5% (up from 3.6%) said they planned to leave the professional altogether, about 277 people
- About 7.2% of teachers and non-administrative educators (up from 4% in 2020) plan to leave the profession entirely, nearly 7,800 people
- Just 36% of principals (down from 39% in 2020) said cyberbullying was not a problem at their schools, just 49% (down from 58% in 2020) said bullying was not a problem at their schools and just 45% (down from 54%) of principals said physical conflicts among students rarely occurred
- About 63% of teachers and other non-administrator educators believed physical conflicts among students were rare, about 63% believed cyberbullying was not a problem among students and about 60% believed bullying was not a problem at their school.
Many results have not changed over the years, including opinions on class sizes, in which more than a third of teachers continue to believe class sizes are not small enough to meet all students’ needs.
Educators’ assessment of school leadership did not changed tremendously overall. What changed was teachers’ assessment of whether school leaders were addressing their concerns on a variety of issues, including providing teachers with the time they need to work, helping new teachers, various leadership issues and managing student conduct.
The difference in perspectives on bullying and in teachers’ declining confidence in leadership to address student conduct are concerning to Superintendent Catherine Truitt, who also noted the importance of the relationship between teachers and school leadership.
“This concerns me because I hear from teachers frequently, every year, that school leadership matters, and the extent to which a teacher feels supported by her principal is paramount to retention,” Truitt told the State Board of Education on Wednesday. Truitt asked that DPI work with her to find out more about why the two groups reported different observations on bullying.
The state also asked several questions unique to the COVID-19 pandemic, to gauge student learning and teacher behaviors. Here’s some of the results:
- Most teachers, about 74%, reported spending a quarter to three-quarters of their time this year teaching prior grade academic standards because students began the school year with less knowledge than typical classes of students, a result of COVID-19-pandemic-prompted school closures
- About 68.3% of teachers said their students have more needs for social, emotional and mental health support compared to typical years
- Three-quarters of teachers said their students were at least 6 months behind on their learning when they started the school year
- Helping students make up for schooling lost topped the list of priorities for 24% of teachers, about 23,500 teachers
Teachers were asked to select only one issue as their top issue. Additionally, about 13% named “assessing” student performance as their top issue, and 15% named staffing shortages a their top issue. Another 12% said supporting students’ social and emotional needs were their top priorities.
Schools can now use the survey results to address shortcomings at the school or to estimate where efforts have paid off. The state surveyed more than 122,000 educators across more than 2,700 public charter schools and school systems, and more than 112,000 educators completed the survey.
Later this year, state officials plan to release reports digging deeper into answers by experience level, school type and other factors. Wednesday’s report releases information statewide and at the school level, and people can look up the answers for their school for this year, 2020 and 2018 on a dedicated state website for the survey.
The survey is conducted every two years. Most of the survey is structured as a series of positive statements, largely concerning whether things are happening under ideal circumstances. Teachers are asked to indicate whether they “strongly agree,” “agree,” “disagree”, “strongly disagree” or “don’t know” whether they agree with each statement. Other survey questions ask teachers to indicate how much time they spend on certain activities or how many of their students don’t get enough food at home.
While it’s commonly known as the Teacher Working Conditions Survey, non-teachers can also complete it. This year, about 98,000 teachers completed it, along with about 9,700 education support professionals, about 2,800 assistant principals and about 2,300 principals.
About 92% of all of the educators asked to complete the survey did so, a record. That’s up from 84.5% in 2020 and 90.1% in 2018.
Nearly all schools will be able to see their survey results. At least 40% of teachers and at least five teachers completed the survey in 2,690 of the state’s public schools. Only 53 schools did not reach that minimum and will not be able to access their survey results.
The large majority of teachers typically complete the survey, and administration often push them to do so or incorporate completing it into regularly scheduled staff meetings. Administrators are not permitted to access individual teachers’ surveys, and results are anonymous.