Recruitment & Retention

What Educators Look For in a Job (Besides Pay and Workloads)

By Elizabeth Heubeck — February 01, 2023 3 min read
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School districts nationwide could end up spending nearly $30 billion in federal COVID-relief funds on staffing, according to an analysis from the think tank Future Ed. What should this spending on staffing look like?

A recent survey of current educators and those seeking new jobs may provide some insight.

The EdWeek Research Center this fall surveyed a nationally representative sample of over 1,200 educators and job seekers on issues related to recruitment and retention. Respondents provided details on what they value in a school- or district-based position, what makes them look for a new job, and what it takes for them to accept a job offer. Some of their “wish list” items could be addressed via funding; others aren’t as straightforward. Here are some highlights.

Most educators said they’re considering a job change, but the third most common reason may be a surprise.

Eighty-five percent of the educators surveyed said they’re considering leaving their current job. Low pay and excessive workloads, respectively and perhaps not surprisingly, topped the reasons why. But “a district or school’s approach to student discipline” was a close third.

Discord between teachers and administrators over how students should be disciplined may be partly to blame. Recent shifts in discipline policies, away from zero tolerance to more rehabilitative practices, such as restorative justice, has caused some of the friction between teachers and administrators, especially the move to rein in traditional forms of discipline like out-of-school suspensions. Teachers also can be resistant if they feel new policies have been sprung on them without adequate training and support.

Job seekers want big bonuses.

Among survey respondents, the job-seeking teachers born before 1980 said that a one-time signing bonus would make them “much more likely” to take a job at a school or district. Further, those who said a bonus would likely sweeten the deal typically said it would take a minimum of $5,000 to hook them. But 69 percent of the 400-plus education recruiters who responded to a companion survey given at the same time said they have no plans to offer signing bonuses to new teachers.

Employees want mental health support at work, but only about half get offered it.

The vast majority of educators in the EdWeek survey said that having mental health services available to them at school is at least somewhat important to them. But only 52 percent said their principal or district human resources representative made them aware of available mental health support for employees this school year. Despite this disconnect, the needle at least appears to be moving in the right direction. In a separate survey by the EdWeek Research Center, which was conducted in March 2021, just 16 percent of teachers said their school or district had provided adequate mental health benefits.

Educators of color care far more than their white peers about certain benefits.

In the fall 2022 EdWeek survey, educators of color were more than twice as likely than their white peers to say they would have stayed in a job where their employer offered the following benefits: COVID-related health and safety protocols, more or better professional development, and greater access to resources like technology. As educators of color have long been underrepresented in the nation’s public schools, this type of information on benefit preferences could be useful in recruitment efforts aimed at increasing staff diversity.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives matter to job seekers.

Sixty-three percent of job-seeking educators in the survey said that, when searching for a new job, it’s important that prospective workplaces have personnel actively leading diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. These responses align strongly with the advice of diversity expert Fonati Abrokwa, who takes it a step further.

“Beyond a point person [to spearhead DEI initiatives], though, it’s critical to get buy-in from all school groups,” said Abroka, special assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion at Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pa. “Naming DEI ambassadors is a great way to promote awareness, while simultaneously spotlighting individuals who are invested in the programming.”

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