Must Read Blog March 3, 2021

Making the Grade: One Year In – What Has Been the Toll on Teachers?

Many of us at Tyton are former K-12 educators. It has been a long year for our former colleagues across the country who are the linchpin in our K-12 system.

Fortunately, yesterday, the Biden administration announced that it will use the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for Covid-19 vaccinations to deliver to states and local communities sufficient supplies to accelerate vaccine access for Pre-K school staff and childcare workers. The program will begin Monday, March 8 and builds on efforts in 34 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico that are already prioritizing educators for Covid-19 vaccines. And, while the dialogue still remains strained among administrators, teachers and parents in some communities, in others, they are actively working together to create the best options and learning environments for students given the circumstances.

This month, we share insights into how teachers are faring through the pandemic, drawing on an active Tyton Partners survey with more than 1,050 respondents as of Monday, March 1. We offer some perspective on the specter of considerable teacher attrition in the wake of Covid-19, and how this theme is playing out vis-à-vis internal company investments and the broader M&A landscape.  

 As always, we value your perspective and feedback. Share your thoughts and let us know how our assessment aligns with your experiences.

Making the Grade: One Year In – What Has Been the Toll on Teachers?

It has been a challenging and tumultuous year for many in the K-12 community, with perhaps none affected more than the 3+ million public school educators striving to support the educational journey of our children. One year ago, most were thrust from the front of a classroom to the front of a screen, as schools across the country sent students home and shifted to remote learning models. With little preparation and often under-whelming digital readiness at the school and district level, teachers found themselves transformed into online educators overnight; recent Tyton Partners proprietary research with administrators highlighted “teacher preparedness”, among several areas, as that where their districts most lacked infrastructure, resources, and planning in response to Covid-19.

level of preparedness for COVID-19

For many, the dystopian spring morphed into an opaque summer, as district administrators grappled with back-to-school plans with teachers generally out of the loop. Research we shared in June highlighted that ~60% of teachers reported little or no involvement in planning for the 2020-21 school year.

This dynamic resulted in a back-to-school scenario that was anything but conventional for educators. Nearly 40% started the academic year teaching in a fully remote model, while a similar percentage were teaching in hybrid model (i.e., in person 2-3 days per week), according to a current Tyton survey of teachers across the U.S.[1] By February 2021, only 22% of teachers reported still teaching fully remote, with 46% now in a hybrid model and 23% back fully in-person (up from 15% in the fall). These new models required fairly significant practice shifts for most teachers, as noted below, and the academic year has felt like two – one a quest to learn how to teach in a new model, and the second actually doing it.

Not surprisingly, the current environment has challenged the health and wellness of educators, albeit with less coverage than that devoted to the students in their care. A recent Rand Institute study notes that among teachers who have left the profession voluntarily since March 2020, 44% did so primarily because of Covid-19; among this group, the most common reasons for transitioning included stress and unfavorable conditions at their school.

Similarly, Tyton’s recent teacher survey indicated only 10% of educators identified “ensuring my own well-being (i.e., mental, physical health)” as a top classroom priority pre-Covid-19, near the bottom of a robust list of more student-centered options. For the current academic year, this consideration jumped to the top of the list for more than 29% of teacher respondents, trailing only “ensuring student safety as a result of Covid-19” (38%) and “incorporating technology into teaching and learning” (36%); moreover, teachers currently expect this to be a top 5 priority for them post-Covid-19, perhaps significantly shifting the risk profile of what it means to be a classroom educator.

And yet, while teachers’ assessment of their health and well-being this year is troubling, their satisfaction is somewhat higher, highlighting the resilience and persistence of many in the profession

Moreover, our own research suggests that while teacher attrition remains a concern, potentially catalyzed by Covid-19, teachers may continue to challenge that perception, at least in the near-term. While 64% of surveyed teachers report Covid-19 challenges have caused them to consider leaving the profession earlier than planned, only ~8% plan to do so in the next 15 months, consistent with historical NCES figures.

This narrative of current educator experience underpins a renewed interest among companies and investors in teacher professional learning and alternative certification and may reshape districts’ willingness to partner given the magnitude of need in evolving practice. Many K-12 companies considerably expanded their district and teacher implementation and customer support teams last spring and fall to account for anticipated demand; the impact of those investments will undoubtedly play out across the spring renewal season for those who executed well.

On the M&A front, the acquisition of Learner’s Edge by Quad-C Management in December 2020 was one of the largest transactions in the K-12 professional learning space in several years. We expect that the first half of 2021 will bring an even larger transaction in the space, as Teachers of Tomorrow, the market-leading alternative teacher certification provider, is expected to be sold by its current private equity owner, Gauge Capital. Teachers of Tomorrow announced two small tuck-in acquisitions this year and Achieve 3000 made its first non-curricular acquisition with the addition of Teachonomy in December. We expect more activity in this space across 2021 in support of teachers and their students.

The Bottom Line

Even as districts return to predominantly face-to-face models, they will find teacher and student communities newly conditioned by the tools and strategies adopted in remote and hybrid models. Continuing to optimize for these new(er) practices and approaches, while supporting the health and well-being considerations for existing teachers and helping districts secure qualified new ones, will be paramount.

[1] Teacher data is drawn from a national survey of K-12 educators Tyton Partners launched February 23, 2021 and expects to close March 5. Data in this brief was drawn from a sample of more than 1,050 teacher respondents as of Monday, March 1.