Teaching From Our Research Center

Teachers Are More Stressed Out Than Ever, Even Amid Promising Developments, Survey Shows

By Holly Kurtz — May 14, 2021 3 min read
John Battle High School teacher Jennifer Daniel receives her COVID-19 vaccine in January in Abingdon, Va.

Educator vaccination rates have increased in the past month and so has the share of district leaders who say they’re providing COVID-19 testing. Yet even with these promising developments, educator stress levels are on the rise.

These are just some of the results from the latest EdWeek Research Center’s monthly COVID-19 survey. Administered April 28-30, the nationally representative survey was taken by 1,061 educators, including 449 teachers, 227 school leaders, and 385 district leaders.

Educator vaccination rates jump but lag behind in high-poverty districts

Eighty-percent of teachers, principals, and district leaders have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, up from 65 percent just one month earlier. An additional 2 percent are either partially vaccinated or report that they have made a vaccine appointment. The remaining 16 percent have neither received a vaccination or made an appointment to get one. Teachers are slightly less likely to have been fully vaccinated (78 percent), compared with principals (87 percent) and district leaders (80 percent).

Educators working in the nation’s highest-poverty districts where three-quarters or more of the students qualify for free or reduced-priced meals are significantly less likely to be fully vaccinated (76 percent) compared with those working in lower-poverty districts with free or reduced-price meal rates of 25 percent or less (90 percent).

Educators in districts that remain 100 percent remote report higher rates of full vaccination (94 percent) than those in districts where instruction is in person (76 percent) or hybrid (83 percent).

In addition, rural educators’ vaccination rates (76 percent) lag behind rates reported by suburban educators (88 percent), and their urban peers (86 percent).

COVID-19 testing is increasing, especially in the Western part of the country

Just under half of school and district leaders (48 percent) say they are currently conducting COVID-19 tests for students and/or school employees.

The last time the EdWeek Research Center asked about COVID-19 testing was in February. Back then, we only asked district leaders—not principals—about testing. Thirty-two percent told us they were testing, compared with 44 percent of district leaders on this most recent survey.

Since that time, the $129 billion in American Rescue Plan funding has made more money available for COVID-19 testing (and other pandemic-related needs).

Among those school and district leaders who say they are currently conducting COVID-19 tests, most (55 percent) are testing students and employees. Thirty-seven percent are just testing employees. The remainder are only testing students.

School and district leaders in the Western part of the United States are significantly more likely to say they’re providing tests. Sixty-six percent are testing, compared with 29 percent in the Northeast, and 41 percent in the Southern and Midwestern United States.

Testing is also reported more frequently by administrators in districts where less than half the students are white (53 percent) than by their peers from districts where half or more students are white (38 percent). This may be due to the fact that COVID has hit communities of color particularly hard.

More teachers say work is more stressful now than a year ago

One year ago, most school buildings were closed and remote instruction was still a relatively new approach for most teachers. Back then, 81 percent of teachers said instruction was more stressful than it had been before the pandemic, an EdWeek Research Center survey found.

On this most recent survey, an even larger share of teachers (92 percent) said teaching is more stressful now than prior to the pandemic. And most also say it has only grown more challenging over the course of the pandemic: 78 percent of teachers say teaching is a lot or somewhat more stressful today than it was a year ago.

Teachers in the Midwest are significantly less likely to say teaching has grown a lot more stressful in the past year (34 percent), compared with their peers from the Northeast (40 percent); the South (49 percent); and the West (50 percent). This may be because many Midwestern schools conducted most of their instruction in person this school year while schools in states in other regions—such as California—were still largely using remote or hybrid instruction.

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