Merrimack College Study Says Most Teachers Don’t Recommend Job; Mental Health Support Would Help

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A newly released study by Merrimack College shows only 46% of current public educators would be “fairly” or “very likely” to advise their younger selves to choose teaching again and more than a 35% are considering leaving the profession altogether.

Authors say the 2023 Merrimack College Teacher Survey, which was conducted by the Winston School of Education and Social Policy at Merrimack College, shines a spotlight on a pressing crisis facing American education.

“While this should serve as a flashing red light to educational policymakers, the survey also provides insights into strategies that educational administrators and policymakers can employ to address this,” said Dean Deborah Margolis. “By prioritizing teacher mental health and wellbeing, and taking steps to build teacher morale, academic leaders can help create a healthier and happier school environment and retain more of their teachers.”

While the survey, conducted in partnership with the nonprofit, nonpartisan EdWeek Research Center, paints a dark picture overall for American public K-12 education, it reports there are areas that have seen notable improvements since last year. The percentage of teachers who are very satisfied with their jobs has nearly doubled to 20%, and the percentage of teachers considering leaving the profession within the next two years has dropped from 44% to 35%. Additionally, more teachers now report feeling respected by the public and being treated as professionals than in last year’s study.

Despite these positive trends, the survey highlights the ongoing impact of the pandemic on mental health, with 42% of teachers reporting their mental health and wellness negatively affects their work.

According to the study, “About 1 in 3 teachers say their principals provide some or a lot of concrete support for teacher mental health and wellness. But, just one in 10 teachers whose mental health is having a very negative impact on their work say the same.”

Teachers said steps schools or districts could take to support their mental well-being include a pay raise or bonus to reduce financial stress (67%), smaller class sizes (62%), more or better support for student discipline-related issues (62%), fewer administrative burdens associated with meetings and paperwork (57%) and greater acknowledgement of good work/hard work/successes (54%).

Associate Dean Russell Olwell said, “With this survey, we wanted to go beyond just highlighting the challenges, and start looking at how we can leverage this work to support educators and educational leaders.” He added, “As a result of what we are seeing in K-12 schools, Merrimack College has launched several new programs to address teacher and student wellness, including coursework in mental health first aid, social emotional learning for educators and a wellness professional development series through the Merrimack Institute for New Teacher Support.”

The survey, which was administered between January 15-25 of this year, collected responses from 1,178 K-12 public school teachers in the United States, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3% at a 95% confidence level.

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