Good news! Teacher job satisfaction may not be as low as you think

Just one in five teachers disagreed with the statement “I am happy in my current position," according to a SchoolCEO survey of about 1,000 teachers from 300 districts.

The phrase “teacher job satisfaction” may be as unsettling for superintendents and their teams as being called before the school board for a surprise performance evaluation. Countless surveys, including many reports covered by this website, have warned of tidal waves of fed-up teachers heading for the greener—and more lucrative—pastures of the private sector.

In a bit of good news, new polling finds that a majority of teachers are actually satisfied with their profession even if they have also been keeping an eye on job opportunities elsewhere. Only one in five teachers disagreed with the statement “I am happy in my current position,” according to a SchoolCEO survey of about 1,000 teachers from 300 districts.

Similar numbers said they strongly or moderately agreed with the happiness statement. Still, about two-thirds of the teachers surveyed admitted to browsing for other job opportunities during the past year “even if they had no intention of actually applying,” SchoolCEO says. And while only about a quarter of the educators said they had actually applied for another job, the respondents were evenly split when asked if they would leave education if they had an alternative.

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A majority of those who applied for other jobs did so within the education field. “It would appear that even those who are trying to leave their current districts aren’t necessarily trying to leave the field—though they aren’t completely opposed to it, either,” the survey’s authors said. “For school leaders, the takeaways here are fairly simple: Making sure your teachers are happy might not keep them from looking at other jobs, but it could keep them from actually leaving your district—or even education in general.”

Teachers ranked the following factors as most important regarding decisions to apply for another position:

  1. Geographical location
  2. School culture
  3. School leadership
  4. Greater flexibility in curriculum/teaching
  5. School size
  6. Student performance
  7. Career advancement opportunities
  8. Mentorship programs and opportunities

Salary and benefits always play a big role in teacher job sanctification, though about equal numbers agreed and disagreed with the statement “My decision to work in my current district was primarily shaped by salary and benefits.”

“Teachers want to work in a district where they feel valued and respected—by the admin, community, and students … [and] we want to be compensated accordingly,” said one educator who participated in the survey. “We are tired of doing things ‘out of the goodness of our hearts.’ That doesn’t pay the bills or support our families.”

Finally, the survey examined where and how teachers landed in their current school district. The most common paths were job listings on the school or district’s website followed by word-of-mouth, with job boards and career fairs falling much further down the list. That means it’s imperative for superintendents and their teams to keep their websites updated, attractive, and user-friendly so potential applicants can easily find the careers section—which, the survey urges, should highlight a school’s culture alongside its job openings.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is the managing editor of District Administration and 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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