More than half of teachers considering leaving the classroom

Published 11:46 am Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Dramatic disconnect between views of teachers and administrators

WASHINGTON—May 5, 2021—Hundreds of thousands of teachers leave the profession every year, and that’s in a good year. Recent events—including an ongoing global pandemic, the months-long shuttering of the nation’s schools, rapid transition to online and hybrid learning, and a historic reckoning on systemic racism—have dramatically altered the nature of teaching. And there are heightened concerns that the nation’s schools may face an exodus of educators in the months and years ahead.

A report released today by the nonprofit Education WeekRetaining Great Teachers in a Time of Turmoil—provides new national data to help education leaders better understand the stresses and frustrations teachers are facing, the reasons they may leave the profession, and how to keep these educators engaged. The report features original in-depth reporting and highlights results from a new nationally representative survey of K-12 teachers and school and district administrators conducted by the EdWeek Research Center.

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As of March, more than half of teachers nationwide (54 percent) said they were considering leaving the profession within the next two years, a 20 percent increase over the number of teachers who said they were considering leaving in 2019, before the pandemic. The past year has made a challenging job more difficult than ever—84 percent of teachers reported that their work is more stressful than before the pandemic closed schools. Thirty-seven percent of teachers said they were “somewhat” or “very unsatisfied” with their jobs, a dissatisfaction rate two and a half times higher than administrators.


Teachers’ decisions to stay or leave are complex, and the disconnect between their views and the perceptions of school and district leaders may be one barrier to finding solutions. Classroom educators, for example, cite retirement and health benefits, love for their subjects, and seeing students succeed among their top reasons for staying in the profession. Administrators, however, believe that positive school culture and supportive administrators are among the top influences on teacher decisions. Both groups, however, place love for students in their top-three reasons teachers stay.

“Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the report is that even while many teachers feel underappreciated and worn out, there are some concrete steps administrators can take to increase the odds they’ll stay—but it all starts with listening,” says Liana Loewus, the Education Week assistant managing editor who oversaw the project.

The report highlights five specific ways principals can bridge the perception gap with their staff.

1. Be visible—to teachers and students alike
2. Open up authentic, two-way communication channels—and act on teacher feedback
3. Show teachers that they are valued—in ways large and small
4. Find out what teachers are struggling with—and provide support
5. Pare down paperwork—focus on what’s really necessary

The articles from EdWeek’s reporters offer deeper looks at some of the key strategies for retaining teachers: better pay (including pandemic bonuses), greater job flexibility, specific supports for Black male teachers, attending to teachers’ mental health needs, and providing mentors, especially for new teachers.


Retaining Great Teachers in a Time of Turmoil is part of a larger collaboration between Education Week and Roadtrip Nation. The project also includes an original national survey, documentary video features, and Roadtrip Nation’s Teachers Community Hub, which provides a place to connect with and be inspired by real-life and conversations with teachers from all walks of life. Support for this work comes from Carnegie Corporation of New YorkOverdeck Family FoundationStrada Education Network, and Walton Family Foundation.