65% of Wyoming teachers would quit if they could, new survey results show | Local News
SHERIDAN — Survey results available on Wyoming Education Association website shows that 65% of teachers in Wyoming would quit if they could, said researcher Mark Perkins.
During an interim meeting of the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education on May 31, Perkins — assistant professor of educational research in the College of Education at the University of Wyoming — gave lawmakers an overview of the investigation, which was conducted jointly by the Wyoming Education Association and the University of Wyoming.
The survey includes responses from about 670 teachers across the state, Perkins said. And many responses came from discouraged teachers who were seriously considering quitting.
“Among non-retired educators in the state of Wyoming, 12 percent said they were leaving teaching altogether,” Perkins said. “However, when asked, ‘If I could, I would quit, but I choose to stay for financial or other reasons’, 65% agreed or strongly agreed. »
This desire of educators to leave the profession is not unique to Wyoming, Perkins said. According to a January National Education Association Poll of 3,621 teachers across the country, 55% were seriously considering leaving. This rate has increased by 18% in five months, according to the NEA.
Perkins said three main factors kept coming up in the survey results of why teachers in Wyoming were discouraged. The first was mental health.
“Anxiety and depression are strongly correlated with wanting to stop teaching,” Perkins said. “And I think COVID (contributes) to that… We often focus on the mental health of children… but if the teacher is not supported as well, it can affect the class.
A perceived lack of professional support was also a key factor, Perkins said.
“Teachers who felt supported in their buildings and in their (districts) were less likely to report wanting to quit,” Perkins said. “…It seems that what is most relevant to teachers is what is closest to them. We are therefore talking about the support of parents, the support of students, the support of their principal, the support of members of the community. These elements seem to take into account (the results) really well. »
Finally, teachers expressed concerns about student assessments, believing that it stifled their ability to teach and respond appropriately to students’ educational needs.
“Nearly 90 percent of teachers agree or strongly agree that assessment does not help student learning,” Perkins said. “…(Even) teachers who want to stay don’t see the value in it.”
The survey results point to issues at the heart of the state’s longtime teacher attrition problems, Perkins said. Currently, the state of Wyoming needs a base of about 7,500 full-time equivalent teachers to meet its K-12 educational needs, said Scott Thomas, dean of the University’s College of Education. of Wyoming. The state experiences an average of 825 teacher departures per year, Thomas said, and only 500 new college graduates start teaching in the state each year.
Pete Kilbride, superintendent of School District 1 in Sheridan County, said teacher retention remains a problem statewide and nationwide and — to a lesser extent — in his district. Kilbride said about 12 teachers leave the district for a variety of reasons every year, including retirements, pursuing a new job opportunity or supporting their spouse as they search for a new job opportunity. use.
Kilbride said the district generally has an easier time retaining existing teachers and recruiting new ones because of the “opportunity of living in Sheridan County.” He said he hasn’t had teachers worried about issues like mental health and lack of professional support, but he said the district remains concerned about those issues.
“We haven’t heard about these issues specifically from our teachers, but we realize these are issues across the country and state,” Kilbride said. “…We have always gone to great lengths to let our teachers know that they are appreciated. We allocate money to each principal specifically to let teachers know they are appreciated, whether by providing them with cards or a special lunch or dinner. We know that if our staff doesn’t feel appreciated, they probably won’t stay.
Addressing attrition is not an easy matter and will likely require additional research and in-depth discussion, Perkins said.
“We need to think of educator attrition as more than a ‘left or stay’ binary,” Perkins said. “We have to think about how they are doing as educators and as guardians of our children.”
Representative Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, agreed and said he believed the problems facing teachers today could be solved, but a workable solution can take time and effort.
“We often don’t know how to handle all of this, do we?” Sommer said. “It’s actionable, but how do you do it?… I think there are some really good things here, but we just have to think about how to make it actionable in a meaningful way.”
Stephen Dow is a reporter for The Sheridan Press.