Solutions for solving the teacher crisis

There is no shortage of media coverage about the current crises in the teaching profession: excessive vacancies; teacher burnout; lingering pandemic challenges; and more. 

Our 2022 Texas Teacher Poll provides data about how to support and strengthen the teaching profession, and it comes straight from the source – Texas teachers.

Teachers are the experts about the pain points, challenges, and opportunities within the teaching profession. They can identify what got us into this crisis, and how to get us out of it. 

Here are the key takeaways from our 2022 representative statewide poll of Texas teachers. These insights from educators are a call to action for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to not only listen to teachers, but also act in partnership with them to strengthen and sustain the teaching profession and, consequently, Texas public schools.

Key Takeaway 1:

Yes, the problem is acute. More Texas teachers than ever are seriously considering leaving the profession, and many have begun taking steps to do so. 

In three years of poll data, the number of teachers who are seriously considering leaving the profession has jumped from 58% in 2020 to 77% in 2022. Of the 77% considering leaving, 93% have taken concrete steps to do so. These types of steps include:

  • updating their resumes 
  • searching online for other jobs 
  • networking to find other job options 
  • enrolling in classes to prepare for another job 
  • applying for or interviewing for another job 

A large percentage of teachers (42%) say they expect to stay in their current position for less than three years.

Key Takeaway 2:

It is not a mystery why teachers are leaving. They work in a broken system. 

Too little pay, support, and respect, combined with too much non-instructional work and pressures to respond to the individual needs of students without adequate resources are driving teachers out of the profession. 

When asked in an open-ended question about reasons teachers have seriously considered leaving their positions, their responses generally fell into six buckets: 

  • Lack of respect, appreciation, and support from the public, parents, and elected officials
  • Lack of support from school administrators
  • Stress from trying to help all students with their individual learning, emotional, and behavioral needs (including special education needs), particularly as a result of the pandemic 
  • Excessive workload and burnout
  • Standardized test pressures, especially as a result of the pandemic 
  • Low pay

Although not explicitly tied to attrition, when asked about barriers teachers face that keep them from being as good a teacher as they can be, the following topped the list:

  • Too many non-instructional tasks and responsibilities (86%)
  • Not enough planning time (82%)
  • Pressure to have your students do well on standardized tests (81%)
  • Too-large class sizes (74%)
  • Lack of student support services (e.g. counselors, instructional aides, nurses, paraprofessionals) (66%)
  • Lack of supplies or equipment (60%)

Key Takeaway 3:

Beyond instruction, teachers are doing more than their share of supporting public education, with an unfair share of the compensation. 

Teachers report working overtime, spending their own money on classrooms and students, and working second jobs.

Eighty-three percent of teachers report working at least 50 hours/week during the school year. Of those, 31% report working 50-59 hours/week; 34% work 60-69 hours/week; and 12% report working 70-79 hours/week. 

Ninety-eight percent of teachers spent their own money on classroom supplies. These teachers report a median of $500 spent on classroom supplies during the last school year (2021-22) without reimbursement. Thirty-nine percent reported spending $251-$500; 6% spent $501-$750; 14% spent $751-$1,000.

Of the teachers who report spending their own money supporting students’ basic needs, teachers spent a median of $200 on items such as food or clothing without reimbursement. Twenty-nine percent spent $1-100; 20% spent $101-$250; 18% spent $251-$500.

Fifty-two percent of teachers reported working a second job for pay. Of those, 89% worked the additional job during the school year. Seventy-nine percent of these teachers say the main reason they do additional work is because they need the extra money. 

Eighty-one percent of teachers say their pay is unfair, up from 69% in 2021 and compared to 60% of teachers nationally who were asked this question in 2019.

Key Takeaway 4:

Where does this leave teachers? They feel less valued than ever. 

The share of teachers who feel valued by Texans overall has fallen from 44% in 2020 to 17% in 2022. Percentages of teachers reporting feeling valued by administrators (55%), their communities (34%), and the parents of their students (44%) are all down from 2020. A mere 5% feel valued by elected officials in the state, down from 20% in 2020. 

Key Takeaway 5:

And yet, teachers love teaching. They value connecting with students and making a difference. 

Despite challenging working conditions, the vast majority of Texas teachers report they currently have strong relationships with students (92%) and the opportunity to help students reach their potential (75%). Additionally, 69% say they have a job that makes a positive impact on society. A smaller percentage, yet still a strong majority, 59% say they currently have a rewarding job that makes a difference.

When asked about the importance of these big-picture career- and student-related factors in keeping teachers in the profession in the future, teachers rated their importance:

  • the ability to help students reach their potential (96%) 
  • strong relationships with students (95%)
  • a job that makes a positive impact on society (94%) 
  • a rewarding career that makes a difference (93%) 

Key Takeaway 6:

Solutions Alert! Teachers are clear about what they need: respect, realistic workloads, positive work environments, and higher pay. 

When asked how important certain factors are in encouraging teachers to continue in their profession, they responded: 

  • 97%: A positive work culture and environment (versus 51% feeling they currently have this; 46 point difference) 
  • 90%: Autonomy as classroom leader (versus 57% feeling they currently have this; 33 point difference) 
  • 80%: Input into school and district decision-making (versus 16% feeling they currently have this; 64 point difference) 
  • 79%: Opportunities for creative work (versus 48% feeling they currently have this; 31 point difference) 

When asked specifically about pay and benefits, teachers’ responses make clear distinctions between retention strategies they consider important to encourage them to stay in the profession: 

  • 91%: A significant salary increase
  • 88%: Maximizing retirement benefits
  • 85%: A schedule with more time in your day for planning
  • 85%: District-wide days off for student and teacher well-being
  • 71%: Additional paid personal days off
  • 58%: Student loan assistance or forgiveness programs
  • 57%: A one-time retention bonus
  • 51%: Affordable housing options close to where you work 

Drilling down to subpopulations, some groups value different retention strategies more than teachers averaged as a group. 

  • Among teachers younger than 30 years, 74% said student loan assistance or forgiveness programs are important (versus 58% overall or 36% of teachers aged 60 or above). 
  • 86% of Black teachers say student loan assistance or forgiveness is important, compared with 67% of Hispanic and 49% White teachers. 
  • 66% of single teachers say affordable housing options close to where you work are important, compared with 51% of all teachers and 46% of teachers who are married or living with a partner. 
  • Teachers with minor children (under 18 years) report in higher numbers (75%) that additional days off are important, versus those who don’t have minor children (68%).