Gradient Learning

Worn down and walking away

In five years, classrooms across the country will still feature teachers doing their best to educate their students in engaging ways.

That is not in question. But what is unknown is the identity of many of those teachers and how many of them will still be in the profession at all. 

Will the majority of teachers in 2028 be the same educators who recently completed the 2022-23 school year? Or will it be a smaller, less experienced crop of teachers who are helping shape the minds and future lives of students?

“I am a 21-plus year veteran teacher who never imagined leaving teaching before retirement age,” said a high school teacher in Maryland. “But the last three-and-a-half years have destroyed my ability to manage the workload, to juggle everyone’s competing agendas, and to still remain physically and mentally/emotionally healthy.”

The veteran teacher was among 639 educators who took part in the latest Gradient Learning Poll about the teaching profession. There were many notable—and alarming—findings from the survey conducted this spring, including that only 27% of teachers say that it is “very likely” that they will still be teaching five years from now.

Also, only 9% of teachers responded that they are “very satisfied” with their education career and 74% of teachers wouldn’t recommend the profession to a family member or friend.

These results indicate that a nationwide teacher shortage is a strong possibility in the upcoming years.

“To retain teachers,” a high school teacher from Kentucky said, “I would look at having open and honest conversations about how to improve morale.”

In partnership with Project Tomorrow, the fifth installment of the Gradient Learning Poll surveyed 428 teachers and 211 school leaders from 45 states, plus the District of Columbia, to better understand their views on the state of education. 

Nearly all of the teachers and school leaders (95%) responded that a lack of public respect “is a highly important or moderately important” aspect of an educator’s decision-making process for staying or leaving the profession. 

“It is so hard to hear the disparaging remarks of politicians, parents, and media about schools and teachers—especially when I know how hard I work at my job and how much I invest in my students and their future,” said a middle school teacher from Oregon who has over 16 years of experience. “I would like to see our profession given the respect we deserve.” 

But that same Oregon teacher also touched on the driving force behind why many became educators in the first place.

“Connecting with students and making a difference in their lives,” the teacher said. “Knowing that I am passing on positive and valuable qualities to future generations.”

A middle school teacher from Georgia echoed those thoughts and succinctly stated what is keeping them in the classroom.

“The most rewarding aspect is the children,” the Georgia teacher said. “They are the only reason I haven’t left the profession.” 

As part of its commitment to rebuilding education, Gradient Learning has embarked on this initiative to listen to educators, understand their feedback, and provide actionable solutions—through coaching and professional support—to meet their needs.

“It’s disheartening to see teachers feeling so tired and unsupported,” said Monica Milligan, Chief Program Officer of Gradient Learning. “Educators are asking for help and we must answer their call by treating them with the respect they deserve. There is no back-up plan to teach our children.”

To learn more about the impending teacher shortage and what can be done to help retain educators, check out the fifth installment of the Gradient Learning Poll. Previous polls shined a light on the power of mentoring, the benefits of educating the whole student, the effectiveness of building connections and community with technology, and the importance of student engagement

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