Teachers say that over the past decade, their plates have felt increasingly full.
It’s no surprise, then, that research published in 2019 shows that many teachers feel underappreciated and overworked. They’re caught in the middle of policy debates. They’re asked to do more, but they don’t always feel supported by—or on the same page as—their administrators.
Take a look at some of the most significant research findings related to teachers that were published in 2019.
Chart #1: Half of Teachers Have Seriously Considered Quitting
The annual PDK International poll on education surveyed teachers for the first time since 2000, and found that most teachers feel their pay is unfair, and many don’t feel valued by their community. Half have seriously considered leaving the profession.
Of the 556 teachers polled, 55 percent said they would vote to strike for higher pay, while 58 percent said they would vote to strike for higher funding for school programs. The poll also found that the public has teachers’ backs—more than 70 percent of Americans said they’d support a teacher strike for higher pay, for example.
Chart #2: U.S. Teachers Work More Than Teachers in Nearly Every Other Country
Teachers in the United States reported working an average of 46.2 hours a week, according to the Teaching and Learning International Survey, which was coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and included responses from educators in 49 education systems. The global survey average was 38.3 hours a week. Only teachers in two other education systems—Japan and Kazakhstan—reported working more hours.
Of the hours U.S. teachers reported working, the bulk of that time—28 hours—is spent teaching, as opposed to on administrative work or professional development. That’s more than teachers in any other education system. The survey average was 20 hours spent teaching.
Chart via OECD and TALIS
Chart #3: Most Teachers Won’t Have Enough Retirement Savings Under Pension Plans
Teachers who leave the profession sometime before the 30-year mark, or change states, won’t have enough to retire comfortably, according to a study by the Bellwether Education Partners, an education nonprofit group. The study estimates that 81 percent of teachers who start working at age 25 will fail to qualify for adequate retirement benefits under a typical defined-benefit pension plan, since it takes so long for pension wealth to spike
About 85 percent of teachers are enrolled in a defined-benefit pension plan. Teachers in 15 states are not eligible for Social Security.
Chart via Bellwether
Chart #4: Many Teachers Are Teaching Kids How to Read With Approaches Not Backed by Science
A substantive body of research shows that systematic, explicit phonics, with comprehension as a separate focus, is the most effective method for teaching early readers. But an Education Week Research Center survey found that just 22 percent of K-2 and special education teachers considered that their philosophy of teaching reading.
Instead, 75 percent of teachers working with early readers said they teach three-cueing, an approach that tells students to guess when they come to a word they don’t know by using context, picture, and other clues, with only some attention to the letters. These techniques are not evidence-based, yet are commonly found in popular curricula and taught by teacher-preparation programs.
Chart #5: Teachers Have Mixed Opinions on the Use of Out-of-School Suspensions
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education reform think tank, and the RAND Corporation surveyed 1,200 teachers in grades 3-2 on their views on school discipline. They found that many teachers think out-of-school suspensions are racially biased and can be harmful to students—but many still claim they have a role in controlling student behavior.
The survey found that 41 percent of teachers say suspensions at their schools have declined in recent years. About a quarter of those teachers attributed the decrease to improved student behavior, while 38 percent attributed it to a higher tolerance for misbehavior.
Chart via Fordham Institute
Chart #6: There Are Big Differences in How Teachers and Principals View Their Relationship
A nationally representative survey by the Education Week Research Center found that 77 percent of principals think they have made a “completely positive” contribution to their school’s working and learning environment—but only 37 percent of teachers would say the same about their principals.
This disconnect echoes across the teacher-principal relationship. For example, 69 percent of principals completely agree that teachers at their school feel empowered to bring problems to them, but only 25 percent of teachers completely agree they feel empowered to bring problems to their principals.
Chart #7: Teachers Are Less Optimistic About Personalized Learning Than Their Principals
The Education Week Research Center surveyed nearly 600 teachers about their views on personalized learning, in which teachers might use data to construct “learner profiles” of students and allow students to set their own learning goals. The survey found that half of teachers considered it to be a promising idea or one of many tools available for school improvement, while about a fifth of teachers said it was either not on their radar or was a passing fad. Eight percent of teachers considered personalized learning to be a threat to public education.
But when Education Week compared teachers’ responses with those of principals, it became clear that principals have a much more optimistic view of the promise of personalized learning and much less concern about the potentially negative effects of using digital tools to personalize learning.
Chart #8: Teachers Remain Skeptical About the Ability of Technology to Transform Learning
Most teachers say that ed-tech innovations have not changed their beliefs about what school should look like or how to improve students’ academic outcomes, according to a nationally representative survey by the Education Week Research Center. The survey of 700 pre-K-12 teachers also found that less than half said they have meaningfully changed the ways they use digital devices, learning apps, or instructional software over the past three years.
Only 49 percent of teachers said their school or district provides training on how to use educational technology to spur classroom innovation, and just 39 percent said their school or district supports risk-taking with ed-tech.
Chart #9: Teachers Prefer Social-Emotional Learning, Mental Health Support as Safety Solutions
There have been 24 school shootings this year, with seven deaths. That’s statistically rare—there are more than 132,000 schools across the United States—but school safety has still been a top-of-mind issue for teachers. In a nationally representative survey of nearly 700 preK-12 teachers, the Education Week Research Center found that just over half of teachers feel “very safe” at school, and 11 percent feel unsafe.
Nearly 80 percent of teachers say that lawmakers should fund additional mental health resources in schools, and 60 percent say that policymakers should require social and emotional learning programs. There’s less of an appetite for active-shooter drills, which simulate real-life scenarios and which safety experts say can do more harm than good.
Chart #10: Teachers’ Unions Have Not Seen Big Membership Losses After a Supreme Court Blow
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that teachers who do not agree with their union can now cut ties completely, while still being represented in collective-bargaining agreements. Union officials and outside experts expected many members to drop out, but so far, the projected losses have not materialized.
Experts have attributed the membership numbers to several reasons: The unions have spent months, even before the Supreme Court decision, asking members to “recommit” to their unions. A wave of teacher strikes and walkouts, partially organized by the unions, have incentivized teachers to join. And some unions have time-limited windows as short as a few days in which teachers can opt out of membership payroll deductions—an issue that has been challenged in court.
For past years of research, see:
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.