According to a RAND Corporation survey of nearly 1,000 former public school teachers, stress was the most common reason given for teachers to leave the profession before and during the pandemic. Three of the four former teachers said that in the last year they taught at a public school, work was often or always stressful.
In fact, teachers cited stress as the reason for dismissal, which was about twice as high as the lack of salaries. Most of the previous teachers started working with less or equal pay, and 3 out of 10 people started working without any health insurance or pension.
COVID-19 seems to increase teachers’ stress. Nearly half of public school teachers who left the profession early and voluntarily since March 2020 cited COVID-19 as the main reason for their departure. COVID-19 increased stress by forcing teachers to work longer hours and walk in unfamiliar remote environments, often exacerbated by technical problems.
“Different COVID-19 stresses affected pandemic teachers differently,” said Melissa Diliberti, lead author of the report and assistant political researcher at RAND, a nonprofit, impartial research organization. “Adequate salaries and childcare responsibilities pushed young teachers under the age of 40, and older teachers were more likely to say that health conditions were causing them to leave.”
Those who are still in education say that the most attractive places for new educational work are more comfort and a better work environment on their schedules. Approximately 3 out of 10 teachers who have left the profession and are currently working have a non-educational job, 3 out of 10 have a different position, and the rest are in non-teaching education.
There is good news for school districts: A large number of former public school teachers are ready to return to the profession under certain conditions.
“Despite the many reasons for public school teachers to leave, about half of those who left primarily due to COVID-19 said they were ready to return when many workers were vaccinated or after staff and students underwent regular rapid COVID-19 testing,” Pre-K to RAND said. Heather Schwartz, co-author and director of the 12 Education Systems program, said.
The survey was conducted in December 2020 using the RAND American Educator Panels, a national representation of educators who expressed their views on important issues of education policy and practice.
Another author, David M. Grant, is the author of Stress, which outweighed the reasons for public school teachers to resign before COVID-19.
As a part of RAND, RAND Education and Labor is dedicated to improving education and expanding economic opportunities through education and analysis. Researchers address key policy issues in the U.S. and international education systems and labor markets, from kindergarten to scholarship planning.