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The Teaching Profession in 2017 (in Charts)

It's been a busy year for educators—and also for researchers (including those at our own Education Week Research Center) who have been churning out studies and data about the state of the teaching profession. 

Many of these data points won't come as a surprise to those who are in the classroom every day, but they serve as a good reminder of the challenges of teaching. It's stressful; there's a lot going on at all times; and what's happening in the outside world tends to bleed into the school day. There are also some bright spots: Teachers play an important role in students' lives, and that's reflected in the research.

And for more of a visual picture of teaching, see previous years' editions of this post. In 2014, the graphs focused on the teaching profession itself: composition, salary, benefits, etc. In 2015, the graphs looked at teaching through a student lens. And last year, the graphs focused on how teachers feel about some of the policy initiatives and education reforms they see. 

Chart #1: Teachers Say Their Jobs Are Constantly Changing

Most teachers say they've faced major changes over the last couple of years, from what and how they teach to how they're evaluated, according to a recent survey by the Education Week Research Center. And there are signs that teachers are starting to feel reform fatigue.

Most teachers said that as soon as they get a handle on a new reform or initiative, it changes. One teacher told reporter Liana Loewus: "You're not going to put 100 percent effort into something that's not going to stick. You do what you have to do to get your i's dotted and t's crossed so that you're still doing your job."

Chart #2: Teachers Are Really Stressed Out

Teachers are feeling especially stressed, disrespected, and less enthusiastic about their jobs, a survey by the American Federation of Teachers and the advocacy group Badass Teachers Association found. 


Self-care is essential for teachers, experts say—teachers must develop their own social-emotional competencies, including the ability to manage stress, before they can model those skills to students. And high stress levels among teachers could harm students' academic achievement, research shows.

Chart #3: The Political Climate Might Be Making Teachers' Jobs Tougher 

Last year's presidential election was the most divisive in recent memory, and that has trickled down into classrooms this year. According to an Education Week Research Center study, 42 percent of teachers said it was difficult to discuss national politics with students—more so than any other controversial issue. Despite this, most teachers said it was important to talk about current events in school. 


Meanwhile, a recent report from UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access found that many teachers said the election caused them extra stress, and they didn't feel adequately prepared to respond to contentious classroom dynamics. 

Chart #4: Teachers Are Quitting Because They're Dissatisfied  

About 8 percent of teachers leave the profession each year, and another 8 percent move to a different school, making the overall annual turnover rate about 16 percent, according to an analysis by the Learning Policy Institute. The most common reason? Dissatisfaction with their job. 

(It's important to note that in this chart, which uses data from 2012-13, teachers were allowed to select more than one reason, which may explain the high percentage of teachers citing dissatisfaction.)

Chart #5: Teachers' Union Participation Is Down

U.S. public school teachers are less likely to participate in unions than in previous years, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education.

This is important because the teachers' unions could lose even more members in the year ahead. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that could potentially conclude that monthly fees paid by non-members are unconstitutionalMany teachers who are forced to pay the fees end up joining the union—so the thought is that membership would go down if those fees were lost. The court is expected to vote against the union. 

Chart #6: Teacher Demographics Don't Match Their Students'—and That's a Problem

Efforts to increase teacher diversity have been priorities for state policymakers and districts. The nation's teaching force is 80 percent white, and more than half of students are nonwhite. Here's what that gap looks like in many states:

A growing body of research has found that having more teachers of color contributes to an increase in positive outcomes for students. For example, a Johns Hopkins study found that if a low-income black student has just one black teacher in elementary school, that student is significantly more likely to graduate high school and consider attending college. 

Chart #7: Students Need to Feel a Sense of Belonging at School, and That Starts With Teachers

Teachers tend to agree: When students feel like they belong at school, they do better academically. The Education Week Research Center asked 528 educators how they address some barriers to belonging. The takeaway: Most teachers recognize their role in helping students feel safe and supported and want to help. 


My colleague Evie Blad reported that researchers recommend teachers call out the strengths of individual students, actively challenge stereotypes that students may internalize, and strengthen connections between a school and its surrounding community.

Chart #8: Having Students With Disabilities in Class Doesn't Necessarily Slow Down Teaching Time

A survey from 38 countries, including the United States, found that if you take away behavioral issues, teachers who have a high percentage of students with disabilities report that they spend about the same amount of time teaching as educators who have no students with special needs in their classroom. 


Still, a researcher notes that the pace of inclusion has outpaced the number of teachers who are trained to teach students with special needs. 

Chart #9: U.S. Teachers Spend More Time Teaching Than Educators in Other Countries 

A report from the Center for American Progress found that U.S. educators spend far more time teaching lessons and less time planning them than educators in other top-performing countries.


The report authors pointed to a survey of 120 U.S. school districts that found that just 45 minutes of a typical teacher's 7.5-hour workday is dedicated to planning. (Check out the following graph to see why that's a problem.) 

Chart #10: Teachers Say Common Planning Time Is the Most Effective PD 

Common planning time with teachers at the same school is more effective than other forms of professional development for improving classroom instruction, teachers said in an Education Week Research Center survey. That beat out other PD initiatives, like new-teacher mentoring, professional learning communities, and PD from outside providers.

The survey also found that 42 percent of teachers say they have little to no influence on the PD available to them. That might be why teachers so often have a PD horror story to tell. 

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