Opinion: New survey finds improving teacher morale

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Last year’s Merrimack College Teacher Survey suggested a fatigued profession in free fall. This year’s results show signs of improving morale among teachers now that the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

The poll of U.S. teachers was conducted mid-January by the nonpartisan EdWeek Research Center and commissioned by Merrimack College, a private university near Boston, Massachusetts.

Compared to the inaugural Merrimack survey last year, the percentage of teachers who said they are very satisfied with their jobs climbed from 12% to 20%.

That 20% of “very satisfied” teachers pales in comparison to the 50% recorded in the late 1990s and early 2000s by the long-running MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, which, after 29 years, ended in 2012.

Last year, Merrimack’s Winston School of Education and Social Policy stepped into the breach and launched its own national teacher survey. Researchers said the increase in teacher satisfaction between 2022 and 2023 is worth noting, especially if next year’s findings continue this upward trajectory.

Among other 2023 results:

The percentage of teachers considering leaving the profession within the next two years fell from 44% to 35%. While classroom conditions appear to have changed modestly, the survey points out that the changes are for the better.

46% of current public K-12 educators would be “fairly" or “very likely" to advise their younger selves to choose teaching again.

42% report their mental health and wellness negatively affects their work.

1 in 3 teachers say their principals provide some or a lot of concrete support for teacher mental health and wellness. However, just 1 in 10 teachers whose mental health is having a very negative impact on their work say the same.

The survey asked respondents what schools and districts could do to better support them. Among the top suggestions were a pay raise or bonus (67%), smaller class sizes (62%), more/better support for student discipline-related issues (62%), fewer administrative burdens associated with meetings and paperwork (57%) and more acknowledgement of good work/hard work/successes (54%)

The report and survey are not without cautions. As the report notes:

More teachers now say the general public respects them and treats them as professionals, even as schools continue to be caught in the crosshairs of culture wars. That's not to say that the teachers are alright. Tellingly, most teachers still say that, given a chance to do it over again, they wouldn't advise their younger selves to pursue the profession. Measures of teacher autonomy were also stagnant.

The Merrimack 2023 survey included responses from 1,178 K-12 public school teachers, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent at a 95% confidence level.