5 charts to help us visualize the state of public education right now

One in five teachers in states without restrictions on race- and gender-related topics reported narrowing their instructional choices.

Five charts covering teacher turnover, math instruction and gun violence, among other pressing issues, could help K12 leaders get a clearer picture of the state of public education in the new school year.

The responses of teachers, principals and superintendents surveyed by the RAND Corporation’s American Educator Panels offer a forecast of sorts about how the lingering impacts of the pandemic on K12 politics, safety and staff shortages may continue to challenge districts in the coming school years.

Here are the topics covered in RAND’s five charts, one of two of which may come as a surprise to education leaders:

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1. Math teachers are skipping important content: Math teachers are now more likely to skip content covered by their state’s standards. The trend began in 2019–2020 and is even more severe among teachers of high-poverty students and students of color, which, the researchers contend, “could move these students further behind their peers.”

2. Restrictions on classroom discussions of hot-button topics are a problem: About a third of U.S. states have now restricted teachers from covering race- and gender-related topics. Approximately a quarter of teachers admitted the new laws had altered their curriculum choices and instructional practices. Surprisingly, one in five teachers in states without restrictions reported narrowing their instructional choices because of laws elsewhere.

RAND Corporation
(RAND Corporation)

3. Teachers are divided in their stance on carrying guns: A fall 2022 survey found that 54% of teachers thought carrying guns would make schools more dangerous while one in five said it would make them safer. Male teachers in rural schools were most likely to say they would carry a gun if allowed to.

(RAND Corporation)

4. Teacher turnover is not decreasing: Turnover did not surge as expected during the beginning of the pandemic. But leaders reported a substantial increase in turnover in 2021–2022.

5. Teachers are much more stressed than other professionals: Reports of frequent job-related stress and symptoms of depression have declined since 2021 and are now approaching pre-pandemic levels. However, teachers appear to be just as burned out as they were throughout COVID. “It is worrisome that job stress and burnout are so common for two reasons,” RAND concludes. “One is the negative impact on teachers’ health. The second is that teachers experiencing stress and burnout have less capacity to support students and are more likely to consider leaving their jobs.”

The other three of RAND’s five charts can be found at the American Educator Panels.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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