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Pew national research may offer hints at state’s teacher attrition

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(The Center Square) – One day after North Carolina teacher attrition garnered headlines, the Pew Research Center is out with a national survey detailing teachers’ experiences in the classroom and views of their profession.

The national results in part may help explain the state’s bad news.

Wednesday’s meeting of the state Board of Education included the encouraging news of 2023-24 midyear elementary school reading assessments, and the lament of attrition going up for the 2022-23 year. Many mainstream media outlets in the state seized upon the teacher news rather than that of the students’ testing.

Superintendent Catherine Truitt and education leaders credit training teachers in the science of reading for the improved scores. North Carolina is up 22%, a solid step above the national rate of 13%.

Teacher attrition for the most recent year available was 11%. The year prior in 2021-22, it was 7.8%.

In the Pew findings among 2,531 respondents between Oct. 17 and Nov. 14, the main thing teachers wanted known (51%) was “teaching is a hard job.” “Teachers care about their students” (22%), “teachers are undervalued” (17%), and “teachers are underpaid” (15%) also drew more than 350 responses each.

The Pew study analyzed job satisfaction and compared it with all other American workers’ job satisfaction. It asked questions on academic performance and behavior at their schools; support and reinforcement teachers feel they get from parents; top issues that teachers see students facing; classroom activity, including students’ behavior, mental health and use of cellphones; and their views on K-12 education, particularly over the last five years.

Pew, in its report, said 67% of the public feels more strongly than the teachers – that the job is, indeed, more difficult than most others in America. In fact, 1 in 3 says it’s “a lot” harder. Pew also said higher teacher pay is supported (74%) by the public. Those were from findings in a survey from Nov. 9-16.

That same survey also found that only 16% of Americans feel K-12 education is headed in the right direction.

In the teachers’ survey from October to November, 82% said K-12 education “has gotten worse over the past five years,” and only 5% said it was better – leaving 13% saying it was neither better nor worse, or gave no definitive opinion. In the next five years, 53% of respondents expect it to get worse and 20% say it will improve.

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