The State of the American Teacher and the American Principal

Middle school history teachers discuss their lesson plans for teaching about the Great Depression

Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages

Teachers and principals drive student learning. Yet, their jobs are increasingly stressful and complex. This stress takes a toll and can have implications for student learning, educators’ physical and mental health, engagement, and intentions to stay in their jobs. To better understand the state of educator well-being, RAND has launched two projects—the State of the American Teacher and the State of the American Principal. These projects leverage nationally representative surveys of K–12 public school teachers and principals to gather information on educators’ working conditions and job-related stressors.

Current projects investigate teachers’ and principals’ well-being, working conditions, intentions to leave their jobs, how educators respond to political events, and the diversity of the K–12 public school teacher workforce. This research focuses on the experiences of teachers and principals of color, so school systems can continue to better support a diverse workforce.


Research from the 2023 State of the Teacher Project

Key Findings

  • Teachers are deciding on their own to limit instruction. Two-thirds of U.S. K–12 public school teachers limited their instruction about political and social issues in the classroom.
  • Restrictive policies appear to influence teachers in other states and localities. Fifty-five percent of teachers who were not subject to any state or local restrictions decided to limit instruction about political and social issues.
  • Local political climate is a factor in teachers’ instructional decisions. Teachers not subject to any state or local restrictions were more likely to limit classroom discussions of social and political issues if they worked in more–politically conservative communities.
  • Teachers are choosing to limit instruction for various reasons. Teachers said they limited instruction about social and political topics because they were afraid of upsetting parents, lacked guidance from leadership, or feared losing their teaching jobs or licenses.

Key Findings

  • Most teachers feel overworked. On average, teachers reported working 15 hours per week longer than required by contract. One out of every four hours that teachers worked per week, on average, was uncompensated.
  • Most teachers feel underpaid. Only 34 percent of teachers said that their base salary was adequate, compared with 61 percent of working adults. Teachers who said their base salary was inadequate desired, on average, a $17,000 increase in base pay.
  • Recent gains in racial and ethnic diversity in the teacher workforce could be in jeopardy. Black teachers reported working more hours per week; they also were less satisfied with their base salary and more likely to consider leaving their jobs than White teachers were.
  • Teacher dissatisfaction with hours, salary, and working conditions appears to drive poor well-being and lead teachers to consider leaving their jobs. Pay increases alone are unlikely to induce large shifts in teachers’ well-being or intentions to leave.

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Key Findings

  • Teachers reported better well-being in January 2023 than in prior years and rates of job-related stress have returned to pre-pandemic levels. However, teachers continue to report worse well-being than the general population of working adults.
  • Managing student behavior, supporting student academic learning, and administrative work were top sources of job-related stress for teachers. Black teachers and male teachers were especially likely to report that low salaries were a source of stress.
  • Twenty-five percent of teachers reported that their school or district directed them to limit discussions about political and social issues in class; 65 percent decided on their own to limit such discussions. Half of the teachers who decided on their own to limit such discussions reported that they did so because they were unsure whether school and district leaders would support them if parents expressed concerns.
  • More teachers reported access to at least one type of well-being or mental health support in 2023 than in 2022, but only slightly more than half of all teachers indicated that these supports were adequate. Lack of class coverage and paid leave to access supports were the top reasons teachers said their supports were inadequate.

Technical Documentation and Survey Results


Research from the 2022 State of the Teacher Project

Technical Documentation and Survey Results


Research from the 2021 State of the Teacher Project

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Through the State of the American Teacher and Principal surveys, RAND is documenting the well-being of U.S. teachers and principals, their perceptions of working conditions, and their experiences with timely education events and topics. The State of the Teacher and Principal surveys are intended to examine the relationships between educators’ working conditions, current events in education, and their well-being.

Project Funding

The 2023 State of the American Teacher survey was supported by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

Funding for the 2022 State of the American Teacher survey was provided by the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. Funding for the teacher interviews was provided by the National Education Association and gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. Funding for the State of the American Principal survey was provided by The Wallace Foundation. Funding for the American Life Panel survey was provided by the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.

The 2021 State of the American Teacher survey was supported by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.