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Listening to the Educator Experience

THE 2023 TEXAS TEACHER POLL:

Listening to the Educator Experience


Abstract gallery of several different educators in their daily lives featured with decorative blue-colored elements.

Shared experiences of teachers reveal that mental health is associated with their work environment. Most Texas public school teachers, 83% surveyed, rated their overall mental health positively. However, when asked to rate their mental health specifically in relation to their teaching jobs, 58% of teachers reported positively about their mental health. Various factors in 2023 are impacting teachers’ mental health and emotional well-being. 

Teachers’ working conditions continue to raise concerns. Ninety-four percent of teachers cited poor pay and benefits, excessive workloads/long hours, and staff shortages as sources of personal stress. Many teachers reported feeling they need more training or support from their campus to respond to various school safety scenarios. 

Eighty-six percent of teachers expressed feelings of keeping students safe as a source of stress, and 91% of teachers cited feeling that they need to support students’ mental health and emotional well-being as a source of stress. 

Additionally, 50% of teachers reported not having adequate training and support from their campus to respond to a student mental health crisis, and a third feel they lack adequate training or support to respond to an active shooter or violent intruder. Reaffirming teachers’ concerns about school safety and student mental health, when asked about their priorities for school spending, 86% of teachers identified assisting students with mental health needs as an extremely or very important spending priority. Eighty-three percent of teachers also cited improving building security in schools as a highly important spending priority.

In other results of this poll, 73% of teachers deemed that a school voucher program would harm Texas public schools generally, and 89% opposed such a program in their community if it reduced public school funding or if participating private and religious schools have no state educational oversight. In an open-ended question, teachers voiced concerns about a voucher program’s impact on funding and the risk of increased racial, economic, and disability-based divisions. 

According to surveyed Texas public school teachers, when entering the teaching field, more than half planned on being pre-kindergarten through grade 12 (PK-12) teachers for the entirety of their careers. Despite their initial aspirations of remaining in the teaching profession for most, 75% of teachers overall reported seriously considering leaving their job in the classroom in the past year, 2023, essentially the same as in 2022, 77%, after increasing sharply from 58% in pre-pandemic 2020. 

Previous poll findings from 2022 revealed that 97% of teachers surveyed identified having a positive work culture and environment as important to encouraging them to continue working as public school teachers. This year’s 2023 poll looked into nine steps campus administrators can take to create a positive work culture and environment for teachers, including more robust support across various domains. At least eight in 10 teachers saw each step as highly important. The highest-ranking steps reported by teachers include campus administrators taking teachers’ opinions into account when setting school policies, giving teachers autonomy as classroom leaders, and supporting teachers in handling student discipline, each reported as highly important by 94%. 

Teachers who reported having a positive work culture and environment at their campus in 2023, 64%, are less likely than others, 89%, to have reported seriously considering leaving their position. 

Findings also show that eight in 10 teachers feel they have adequate support from their campus to provide a classroom environment where all students can be their genuine selves, are empowered to participate, and have good relationships with other students. However, 19% of teachers lack support in these crucial areas. Overall, teachers feel they have support from their campuses to meet the diverse needs of students but not all students. Forty-one percent said they do not have adequate support to meet the needs of students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, and all other gender and sexual orientations (LGBTQ+); 31% for students with learning differences; and 26% for English-language learners. Slightly fewer teachers, 22%, said they lack support to meet the needs of students from low-income households, and 17% said the same for students of a different race or ethnicity than their own. 

The poll also asked teachers about their ability to advocate for diverse student groups at their campus. About three-quarters of teachers feel they have the ability at their campus to advocate for students of a different race or ethnicity than theirs, English-language learners, students from low-income households, and students with learning differences.

Regarding teacher training and preparation, teachers expressed the importance of hands-on or direct experiences such as observing other teachers, field supervisor support, student teaching, and mentorship. Eighty-eight percent of teachers had a mentor during their preparation program or early teaching years. 

What Texans believe matters greatly to us. While some of our efforts are regional, much of our impact spans the huge and diverse state, and we value voices and experiences from every community.