The Tennessee Education Research Alliance (TERA) released a series of four briefs that highlight key findings from the 2023 Tennessee Educator Survey on teacher recruitment and retention, school counselors, school leader experiences, and mental health in Tennessee schools.
TERA is a research-practice partnership at Vanderbilt Peabody College of education and human development that collaborates with the Tennessee Department of Education to collect feedback through the Tennessee Educator Survey. All teachers, administrators, and certified staff in the state can provide feedback on policies and practices intended to improve education. Data from the survey influences strategies and goals at the state, district, and school levels.
“The survey is an important tool for understanding the experiences of educators across the state,” said Laura Booker, TERA’s executive director. “We greatly appreciate their time to respond to the survey and think the 2023 findings highlight areas of focus like teacher pipelines and retention and areas of celebration like the state’s tutoring and early reading initiatives.”
Some findings from the 2023 survey suggest that many of the stressors exacerbated by the pandemic persist throughout the education workforce:
- Only 78 percent of teachers report intentions to remain at their school in the following school year, and only 65 percent say they plan to remain in education careers long-term.
- School leaders reported entering the 2022-2023 school year with more hiring needs than in previous years, and those in schools with higher percentages of economically disadvantaged students expressed the greatest challenges with hiring and recruitment.
- Counselors said reduced caseloads and more professional development opportunities are necessary to support students’ non-academic needs, including in the areas of socio-emotional development and behavior.
- School leaders who shared concerns over increased stress and responsibility in their jobs indicated they may leave their roles in leadership sooner than those who did not. While 95 percent of school leaders are satisfied with their jobs, they feel underappreciated, and many early-career leaders feel underprepared.
- About 9 out of 10 teachers and mental health professionals say their school has specific staff members trained to address student mental health needs, and about 7 in 10 report that their school’s mental health referral process gets students the help they need quickly; however, teachers and mental health professionals most often identified counseling, psychological, and social services as the areas in most urgent need of additional supports, resources, and professional development.
The survey also indicates that early-career mentorship for teachers, professional development opportunities for counselors, and more comprehensive leadership preparation programs for administrators could support the recruitment and retention of these roles across the educator workforce.
Additionally, as highlighted in the Tennessee Department of Education’s accompanying overview report, the survey revealed a few bright spots as the state has worked to accelerate student learning post-pandemic. In particular, teachers’ perceptions of the English Language Arts curriculum materials and training have improved since the onset of the pandemic and teachers largely feel positive about the summer learning and tutoring initiatives:
- Roughly 78 percent of teachers indicated they received adequate training to use their curriculum effectively—an improvement from 67 percent of teachers in 2020.
- About 9 in 10 teachers who served as summer learning tutors agreed that their tutoring program was well run, and 2 in 3 teachers agreed that they see a noticeable improvement in the academic performance of students who receive tutoring.
Importantly, a majority of responding teachers identified summer learning programs, efforts to reduce absenteeism, and high-dosage tutoring as the most impactful pandemic recovery efforts for their students.