Stress is the No. 1 reason U.S. teachers left the profession before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new poll reveals.
Nearly 1,000 former public school teachers were polled in December. Three-quarters said their job was often or always stressful during their final year in the classroom.
Stress was nearly twice as common as poor pay as a reason for quitting, according to the results of the survey from the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization.
Most of the former teachers got new jobs with equal or less pay, and three in 10 took jobs without health insurance or retirement benefits.
The survey also found that teachers’ stress was worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly half of those who quit early and voluntarily since March 2020 cited the pandemic as the main reason.
The researchers noted that the pandemic has forced teachers to work more hours and deal with unfamiliar online environments riddled with technical glitches.
“Different COVID-19 stressors affected pandemic teachers differently,” said survey leader Melissa Diliberti, assistant policy researcher at RAND, in Santa Monica, Calif. “Insufficient pay and childcare responsibilities drove out younger teachers under 40, while older teachers were more likely to say health conditions made them leave.”
Of former public school teachers who got new jobs, three in 10 work in other fields, three in 10 have a different type of teaching job, and the rest are in non-teaching education jobs, the findings showed.
A significant number of the former teachers said they would be willing to return to the classroom under certain conditions, according to a RAND news release.
Study co-author Heather Schwartz is director of the Pre-K to 12 educational systems program at RAND. She said, “About half of those who left primarily because of COVID-19 said they would be willing to come back once most staff are vaccinated or there was regular rapid COVID-19 testing of staff and students.”
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on stress.
SOURCE: RAND Corporation, news release, Feb. 22, 2021