Stress Was Leading Reason Teachers Quit Before Pandemic, and COVID-19 Has Made Matters Worse
Feb 22, 2021
In the years before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 8 percent of public school teachers left the profession annually. Very high rates of teacher burnout and low levels of morale during the 2020–2021 school year portend elevated teacher attrition by the end of it. The authors of this report show how important stress has been—more so than pay—in public school teachers' reasons for quitting, and that COVID-19 has exacerbated the high levels of stress.
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The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has added more stress to an already high-stress profession: American public school teacher. The authors of this report share the results of a new survey of nearly 1,000 former public school teachers and reveal how important stress has been—even more so than pay—to teachers' decisions to leave the profession.
In this report, the authors attempt to understand what is and is not normal about teacher attrition during this highly abnormal pandemic era. They build a profile of teacher leavers, both before and during the pandemic, and examine how the pandemic has influenced teachers' exits. They contextualize the pandemic-related findings by examining pre-pandemic stressors in the teaching profession and conclude by examining what former public school teachers reported doing after leaving their public school positions. The authors then discuss the implications of these findings for public school teaching and offer recommendations for educators, researchers, and policymakers.
This research was funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.
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