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DATA: 5 Key Insights Into America’s Teachers

America’s K-12 teachers feel more negative than positive about their profession, according to the EdWeek Research Center’s Teacher Morale Index, a new gauge of teachers’ levels of confidence in—and enthusiasm about—their work.

But what does morale look like for an elementary teacher compared to a high school teacher? How do principals judge the morale of teachers right now? Are teachers and principals in sync on some key issues that impact how teachers feel about their jobs?

Find these answers, and dig deeper into teachers’ overall morale, experiences, and viewpoints on their profession in Education Week’s new project, The State of Teaching. As the linchpin of that project, the EdWeek Research Center conducted a nationally representative online survey of 1,498 teachers in October 2023, along with a separate nationally representative online poll of 659 school leaders in the same time period.

Here are 5 key takeaways from both surveys that provide a more detailed picture about how teachers feel about their jobs and where principals align—or don’t—with those views.

1. Teachers’ morale is lower than school leaders perceive

Nearly half of teachers—49 percent—said their morale got worse over the past year, while only 32 percent of school leaders perceived this decline, mirroring their own reported decline in morale at 31 percent.

The gap between teachers’ reported levels of morale and what school leaders perceive is concerning, given the compelling research that shows how much principals affect teachers’ job satisfaction and retention, and by extension, student success.

2. Most teachers don’t want their own children to go into the profession

Only 21 percent of teachers would recommend a career in K-12 teaching to their own children or to a child of a close family member or friend, significantly less than 42 percent of school leaders who would do so. This sentiment suggests that perceptions of the profession can be passed on over time, a potentially significant challenge to an already shrinking teacher pipeline.

3. Teachers want more autonomy in their instruction than their principals think they should have

Teachers prefer a less rigid approach to instructional autonomy than principals do, when asked to rate on a 0-to-10 scale, with 10 being the most structured.

4. Professional development is ‘irrelevant’ for nearly half of teachers

Almost half of teachers—48 percent—say the PD they get or are required to take is irrelevant and not connected to their biggest needs. As one teacher said in the survey: “Teachers should have a stronger voice in the planning of PD.”

5. Teachers work more than principals think—and long for more planning time

Teachers report an average work week of 57 hours, exceeding school leaders’ estimate of 55 hours. Teachers also report actual teaching time as 23 hours a week, three hours more than school leaders’ perception.

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