Stress tops reasons teachers quit. COVID has made matters worse.

Half of teachers who quit because of COVID said they might return once they and their colleagues were vaccinate
By: | February 22, 2021
"COVID-19 has elevated stress by forcing teachers to work more hours and navigate an unfamiliar remote environment, made worse by frequent technical problems," RAND a new survey says. (AdobeStock/Halfpoint)"COVID-19 has elevated stress by forcing teachers to work more hours and navigate an unfamiliar remote environment, made worse by frequent technical problems," RAND a new survey says. (AdobeStock/Halfpoint)

Stress drives many more teachers to quit than does insufficient pay—and the trend has grown during COVID, a new survey has found.

Stress was the top reason teachers gave for leaving the profession, pre-COVID, and the ongoing pandemic has “made matters worse,” says a RAND Corporation survey of nearly 1,000 former public-school educators.

Teachers blamed stress nearly twice as often as salary as their reason for leaving the classroom, according to the the survey, which was conducted in December 2020 through RAND’s American Educator Panels.

Three quarters of former teachers surveyed said their jobs had been “often or always stressful” during their last year of service.


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Many of them then found new positions that paid them the same or less, and three in 10 were not offered health insurance or retirement benefits in their new roles.

Since the March 2020, almost half of public-school teachers who have quit said COVID-19 was the main reason.

“COVID-19 has elevated stress by forcing teachers to work more hours and navigate an unfamiliar remote environment, made worse by frequent technical problems,” RAND said in its report.

Younger teachers also blamed pay and childcare responsibilities for leaving while older teachers cited health concerns, said Melissa Diliberti, lead author of the report and an assistant policy researcher at RAND

However, half of teachers who quit because of the virus said they would come back once they and their colleagues were vaccinated and staff and students were being tested regularly for COVID.

Teachers who found new jobs within education cited more schedule flexibility and a better work climate as top attractions.


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