Must Read Blog July 10, 2024

Spring 2024 Data on What’s Causing K-12 Teachers to Quit Schools and What Will Make Them Stay

K-12 districts are facing several notable headwinds as they transition into their new fiscal year this July. Chronic absenteeism in many communities is at a historic high. Teachers, students, and schools are increasingly contending with the post-pandemic surge of mental health challenges. ESSER is set to expire this September, and districts are adjusting to tighter budgets and fewer dollars for “nice to have” school and classroom resources. Teachers have borne the brunt of these dynamics. Three years since the “end” of the pandemic (i.e., academic year 2021-22), many of them have had little opportunity to meaningfully recharge, even as they—and their schools—face new challenges.

 

What would keep K-12 teachers? 

So, what would keep teachers in their profession? This June, Tyton Partners surveyed K-12 teachers to explore the factors driving attrition and identify supports and resources. We found that while nearly 1 out of 5 teachers are considering leaving the profession in the next four years (18%), a majority are driven to stay because of the community ties they’ve developed. Finding ways to maintain this sense of community, even with burnout and budget limitations, will be key to addressing teacher turnover.

 

Supporting students while managing burnout

Teachers anticipate facing a variety of challenges this upcoming academic year, but top of mind for them is managing their own sense of burnout while keeping students engaged. Burnout is typically a symptom of not just a heavy workload, but deeper-rooted feelings of powerlessness and cynicism about not being able to do a job effectively.

 

Top K-12 teacher challenges for the 2024-2025 academic year Tyton Partners

 

Teachers’ burnout may be driven by a multitude of underlying factors. This includes the need and effort required to personalize learning for students (with considerably different learning styles) while having limited time and resources to do so effectively. A majority of teachers (54%) at large schools (i.e., 1,000+ students) find that motivating students to engage with instructional resources is a primary challenge, with likely direct implications on the caliber and quality of learning occurring.

Managing student diversity and “time” in the classroom remain persistent challenges for many, despite the increasingly digitally enabled classrooms and instructional resources available to teachers. This reflects a key inflection point for the K-12 sector: the promise of digital tools to enhance teacher productivity, save time, and make their jobs easier has largely not come to fruition.

At the same time, innovations in AI promise to deliver on similar hopes, even as district rollouts of AI-based tools have floundered (look to LAUSD as the latest example). There remains a strong disconnect between what providers aspire to enable in terms of efficiency and effectiveness and what teachers are feeling in the classroom.

 

Anticipating teacher turnover and planning for change

Many teachers are considering changing schools or leaving the profession altogether. More than 1 in 3 (37%) anticipate leaving their current school in the next four years, while 1 in 5 teachers (18%) indicate they plan to leave the profession entirely.

 

How much longer do you plan to stay in your position Tyton Partners K-12

 

This is an improvement from Tyton Partners analysis during the pandemic that identified 1 in 4 teachers were planning to leave the profession, but still has the potential to represent a significant exodus.

If 18% of teachers leave the profession and another ~20% change schools, this would result in ~575,000 public school teachers leaving by 2028 and another ~600,000 moving to a new school in the same timeframe.

For K-12 providers, planning for more novice and new teachers in the classroom presents both challenges and opportunities. Providers will have to account for the churn of new teachers who will need to acclimate to a new school environment—and with it, new tools and platforms. However, providers have an opportunity to secure a strong foothold in thinking expansively and intentionally about how their solutions operate within an environment that is highly community-oriented (but one that is also constantly experiencing disruption).

 

Fostering a sense of community as a retention driver

Maintaining the health of a school community can reduce attrition and improve teachers’ sense of belonging. The top factors motivating teachers to stay at their current school all have to do with elements of personal connections and relatively little to do with specific services provided by the school.

Connections with other teachers (50%), culture and community (49%), and relationships with students (49%) are all top reasons why teachers want to stay. While salary and benefits (25%) and access to high-quality professional development (7%) are tangible benefits that some teachers value, they are secondary to the intangible sense of belonging that teachers seek.

 

Reasons for K-12 teachers to stay at their current school Tyton Partners

 

Fostering organic connections among employees is challenging in any type of workplace. In schools, in particular, mandatory PD or social sessions on top of lesson preparation and instruction can come across as burdensome and time-consuming, especially when many teachers already feel burnt out.

Administrators and school leaders likely need to focus on authentic ways to build and strengthen the community without putting more pressure on teachers.

K-12 providers should consider how their solutions may impact over-worked and/or struggling teachers. Demonstrating clear, meaningful classroom productivity benefits and facilitates social connections between and among students and fellow teachers. These are areas (of many) that providers could explore.

 

The role of teaching and learning platforms in addressing challenges

In the classroom, teachers are leaning on a select set of tools to improve their efficiency and address notable challenges. LMS platforms (e.g., Canvas, Google Classroom, Schoology) and student engagement platforms (e.g., Quizziz, Kahoot!) are highly valued by teachers relative to other tools.

 

Most helpful tools for K-12 teachers that address their top 3 challenges Tyton Partners

 

Teachers’ strong positive associations with LMS and engagement tools may be reflective of the challenge they’re facing (i.e., getting students to engage with materials) and the key activities these tools streamline such as managing assignments and grading. With teachers using an average of 49 unique products(!!!) per year, their focus on LMS and engagement platforms may indicate a desire for fewer “hubs” that enable them to better manage activities—rather than a long tail of bespoke solutions. The lack of enthusiasm for generative AI tools is also telling regarding teachers’ current impressions of the promise of AI to benefit their classroom practice.

 

An opportunity for K-12 teaching and learning platforms providers 

As K-12 providers approach various product strategies and go-to-market initiatives, accounting for teacher burnout, turnover, and desire for stronger connections should be a priority. While persistent teacher churn continues to require providers to rethink what a typical user journey might look like, it also presents opportunities to reinforce a solution as an essential tool for enabling efficiency early in a new teacher’s tenure.

 

Help schools persist through teacher transitions

High turnover and influx of new teachers in schools suggests a need for providers to think holistically about how solutions fit within the school community. With potentially 100,000+ teachers entering new schools in the next few years, demand for onboarding and PD services is likely to increase along with expectations that vendors produce tools that are attuned to the shifting dynamics of school ecosystems. This presents an opportunity for providers to think creatively about maintaining consistency in the teaching and learning experience, even as turnover persists.

 

Drive efficiency and connectivity

At the same time, promises of digital tools to enhance productivity have been largely unrealized. There is an unmet opportunity to streamline workflows.

As teachers look to engage students and manage their own workload, they will be particular with the tools they prioritize to enable efficiency and centralize activities. Teachers are likely to lean into using their LMS as a central hub for assignments, grading, and communication. They may also look for innovative ways to leverage digital curriculum and assessment platforms for similar purposes.

Providers of these tools should be aware of the importance teachers place on being able to connect with students. They also need to consider how to facilitate these connections within the limited time teachers have on a day to day basis.

 

If you have questions or thoughts about this article and the survey conducted, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.