Teachers' Stress, Drug Dealing in San Francisco, Preventing Mass Shootings: RAND Weekly Recap

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June 17, 2022

This week, we discuss why teachers are stressed at higher rates than other working adults; how states can play a role in preventing mass shootings; “don't poke the bear” as a model for U.S. strategy toward Russia; San Francisco's open air-drug dealing problem and what to do about it; countering violent nonstate actors; and how the Department of Defense might collaborate with Silicon Valley tech firms.

Two teachers walking and talking in a school corridor, photo by SolStock/Getty Images

Photo by SolStock/Getty Images

How Are America's Educators Doing?

As another pandemic-era school year ends, new results from a RAND survey conducted earlier this year provide insights into the well-being of America’s educators. The headline finding: U.S. teachers and principals are experiencing frequent job-related stress at a rate that is about twice that of the general working public.

Here are some other key takeaways from this study:

  • Nearly half of teachers said supporting students' academic learning was one of their main sources of job-related stress.
  • Two-thirds of teachers reported taking on extra responsibilities during the pandemic, such as covering other teachers’ classes or taking additional students in their own classrooms because of staff shortages.
  • Nearly half of principals of color and one-third of teachers of color reported experiencing racial discrimination. Family members of students and fellow staff were often the source.
  • Well-being was reported as especially poor among Hispanic/Latinx teachers, mid-career teachers, and female teachers and principals.

While these results paint a concerning picture, the survey also revealed some good news: Many educators are managing their stress and still find joy in their work.

“Teachers told us that their dedication to working with students kept them in their jobs, even though pandemic conditions have made teaching more challenging,” said RAND's Elizabeth Steiner, lead author of the study. “Teaching conditions—not the work of teaching itself—are what they find to be stressful.”

With this in mind, Steiner and her coauthors identified several recommendations for school districts that could help educators. These include alleviating stress by expanding tutoring programs, investing in summer school, and hiring additional staff to address student behavior and mental health concerns and provide more support in the classroom.

A man prays at a memorial at the scene of a mass shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, May 19, 2022photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

A man prays at a memorial at the scene of a mass shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, May 19, 2022

Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

States' Roles in Preventing Mass Shootings

After the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, there have been renewed calls for federal action to prevent similar tragedies in the future. But according to RAND experts, state governments might be best positioned to take the lead on long-term, sustainable efforts that prevent targeted violence. Most importantly, they say, states can convene stakeholders, experts, and community leaders to develop an overarching violence prevention strategy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a screen partially obscured by decorations at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, June 4, 2021, photo by Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a screen partially obscured by decorations at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, June 4, 2021

Photo by Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

'Don't Poke the Bear'?

Although the White House announced this week that it would send $1 billion in new military aid to Ukraine, some argue that Washington should call for Ukraine to back down in order to avoid antagonizing Moscow and escalating the conflict. In other words, “don't poke the bear.” But backing off now would make little military sense, says RAND's Raphael Cohen. It risks giving Russia time to regroup and renew its offensive. It may also send the wrong message, underscoring doubts about the West's willingness to see hard tasks through to the end.

People walk around the Tenderloin district in San Francisco, California, April 1, 2020, photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

People walk around the Tenderloin district in San Francisco, California, April 1, 2020

Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

What Can Be Done to Stop Open-Air Drug Dealing in San Francisco?

Drug dealing has been an enduring problem in San Francisco's Tenderloin district. According to RAND's Beau Kilmer, there are ways to address this issue. To start, it's important to be transparent about what happens after someone is arrested for selling drugs. But, Kilmer adds, it may be time to reconsider what those consequences are. “The bulk of the research suggests that swift and certain sanctions are more likely to deter someone from committing a crime than long prison sentences,” he says.

Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram from 2009 to 2021, speaks in an unknown location in Nigeria in this still image from a video obtained on January 15, 2018, handout from Sahara Reporters via Reuters

Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram from 2009 to 2021, speaks in an unknown location in Nigeria in this still image from a video obtained on January 15, 2018

Handout from Sahara Reporters via Reuters

How to Counter Violent Nonstate Actors

Nonstate actors such as terrorist groups and drug trafficking organizations have the capacity to wage war, inflict violence, and engage in vast transnational criminal activity. This makes them a persistent danger and a direct threat to U.S. security interests. And because these groups are quite flexible, countering them is a challenge. A new RAND report looks at how violent nonstate actors adapt and evolve—and provides recommendations on how the U.S. Army can prevent them from doing so.

A young programmer working late at night, photo by gorodenkoff/Getty Images

Photo by gorodenkoff/Getty Images

Are the Pentagon and Silicon Valley a Good Match?

The Department of Defense wants to take advantage of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, to preserve its technical edge. Working more closely with Silicon Valley software companies could help. But are the organizational cultures of the Pentagon and private tech firms too far apart for effective collaboration? A new RAND report breaks down where the two communities have substantial cultural differences and where they might find common ground.

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