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It’s Time to Address the Teacher (Dis)satisfaction Crisis

Michael Nutter

March 21, 2019

A new survey reveals that a majority of teachers aren’t satisfied with their careers. Here’s what districts can do to help.

As I covered last month, teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District — the second-largest district in the nation — recently went on strike in pursuit of higher pay, smaller class sizes, and increased support staff. This short-lived standoff was only the latest example of teachers’ frustrations evolving into a strike — teachers in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and West Virginia all went on strike last year.

This recent wave of strikes reflects broad — and growing — dissatisfaction within the teaching profession, a trend that was recently hammered home by the EdChoice 2018 Schooling in America survey. Though this is the sixth edition of the annual poll, it’s the first to include input from teachers — and its findings about their job satisfaction were borderline shocking.

While it surprised no one that many teachers are displeased with certain aspects of their jobs like lack of career mobility and low pay, few could have predicted just how widespread and intense this dissatisfaction actually is. Asked whether they would recommend teaching in a public school to a friend, 74 percent of teachers responded neutrally or in the negative.

This places teachers below local politicians and active-duty military personnel in terms of job satisfaction, suggesting that the profession as a whole may be at greater risk than previously believed. As such, it’s imperative for districts to foster teacher satisfaction wherever possible, both to keep current teachers engaged and to attract new talent to the field — but how?

Teachers’ Wants and Needs Aren’t Being Met

According to the survey results, most teachers actually do trust that school- and district-level administrators have their best interests at heart. That said, teachers feel severely undervalued by leadership at the state and national levels, a fact that’s seemingly reflected in their low salaries and ballooning administrative burdens.

Teachers overwhelmingly report that they desire higher pay, greater opportunities for career advancement, and more time for collaborating with peers and refining their classroom instruction. In the absence of any of these concessions, a full 20 percent of educators say they would actively consider leaving the profession.

Overarching, widespread changes to teacher salaries and paperwork responsibilities will have to come from the state or national level, meaning for now, the onus is on district-level leadership to make teachers feel valued in their place of work. Fortunately, that’s possible — though it’s not always easy.

How Districts Can Help

Many of the factors contributing to teacher dissatisfaction are out of districts’ control. Salaries, for example, are largely dictated by state and national education funding. However, there are steps districts can take to meaningfully improve their teachers’ job satisfaction.

As alluded to above, many teachers want to spend more time collaborating with colleagues, and studies show that developing a collaborative culture can help schools retain talented teachers. School leadership can help create this culture by building collaboration sessions into teachers’ schedules and appointing “teacher leaders” who can take ownership over the sessions’ content and character.

These teacher leader roles actually serve a dual function: by taking charge of team meetings, teacher leaders not only perform a relevant, meaningful administrative function, but also improve their upward mobility in the field. Stepping into these roles can vastly improve teachers’ job satisfaction, as according to a study from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, teachers who leave the profession often do so because of a lack of leadership opportunities.

Of course, creating new leadership opportunities and restructuring a school’s approach to collaboration can be a complex endeavor. Doing so demands time and resources — two things of which many school districts never have quite enough. That’s where Vinson’s CheckPoint EMIS Platform comes into play.

CheckPoint streamlines a district’s data collection, organization, validation, and submission processes, securing the district more funding from state and national sources while saving administrators time in the process. With CheckPoint, Superintendents and District Treasurers can gain access to all the funding they need to get — and keep — teachers excited about coming to work every day, helping build a brighter future for students and educators alike.

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