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OFT Survey of 2,321 K-12 Teachers and Staff Show Factors Driving School Staff Shortage

May 16, 2023
Contact: Neil Bhaerman,

Survey of 2,321 K-12 Teachers and Staff Show Factors Driving School Staff Shortage

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Federation of Teachers released results today of a statewide survey of more than 2,300 K-12 educators and school support workers. The survey was focused on the factors that lead to teacher and staff turnover and on potential solutions to increase retention in Ohio’s K-12 schools. 

Topline findings:

  • 2,321 survey respondents (16.7% of OFT’s members who work in K-12 schools, educational service centers, and career tech education centers)
  • Across all job categories, 65.1% of respondents have a lower level of satisfaction in their jobs than they had in their first few years of employment and 72.3% of respondents have seriously considered leaving their job recently (54.4% have considered leaving K-12 education completely, the remainder considered changing school districts or job positions). 
  • The largest subset of respondents was teachers and intervention specialists (2,001 respondents). They listed the following issues as the primary factors that have driven educators out of the field:
    • Student behavior — 85.09% listed it as a factor (66.9% listed it as a strong factor)
    • Lack of autonomy/respect — 80.4% factor (59.7% strong factor)
    • Mandates and directives from state policy makers — 76.8% factor (53% strong factor)
    • Too much emphasis on standardized tests — 74.9% factor (50.2% strong factor)
    • Working hours (ie. lack of breaks or prep periods, time spent working outside of school hours, etc.) — 67.8% factor (44% strong factor)
    • Technology, paperwork, or administrative work — 66.9% factor (40% strong factor)

Melissa Cropper, President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, reacted to the survey’s findings:

“Schools and districts across Ohio are struggling to stay fully staffed and to retain highly skilled and qualified teachers and staff. While many elected officials and organizations are focused on recruiting new teachers and staff to K-12 education, those efforts will fail to solve the problem if we aren’t also improving retention rates for teachers and staff.

These survey results show the issues that we need to address to keep teachers and staff in our schools. 

Four of the top issues that are driving educators and staff from our schools are deeply intertwined: a lack of autonomy or respect for educators, too many mandates and directives from state policy makers, an overreliance on standardized tests, and the administrative burden created by those mandates, directives, and tests. We hope this is a clear message to legislators: trust educators to do our jobs. Stop taking up bill after bill that would impose new restrictions and additional work for educators. Your actions are taking a toll in local public schools statewide.

The other top response was related to the rise in challenging student behaviors. This is a safety issue for students, teachers, and staff, and it is an obstacle toward improving academic achievement. There are no easy solutions to this problem, but there are actions our school districts can take. Our members who responded to this survey recommend increasing resources for mental health and social services for students but they also call attention to the need for administrators to support educators.”

The survey results were collected between March 16 and May 12, 2023. The survey was open to all K-12 OFT members statewide. 

Many survey respondents submitted suggestions for state legislators, state Board of Education members, and other policymakers. Suggestions for policymakers that were submitted in the survey include: 

“Shortages will continue as long as working conditions continue to deteriorate. I steered one of my own children away from joining this profession because of everything to do with the profession except the actual teaching portion.” — Teacher in northwest Ohio with 15 years of experience, who has seriously considered leaving K-12 education.

“Listen to teachers and their needs. We need to spend more time, more money, and resources on social emotional health. Students' behaviors take away from learning, yet we focus all our energy on preparing for standardized tests. We need counselors and social workers to support severe behaviors.” — Teacher in northeast Ohio with nine years of experience, who has seriously considered leaving K-12 education. 

“Give educators (professionals) more control over curriculum and policies that impact education and [don’t] rely on legislatures that do not fully understand all of the aspects of teaching and learning...start putting emphasis and funds back on the real problem - socioeconomic issues that impact students' background, support, and learning. Basically, stop blaming teachers and schools for the societal problems that impact the students that enter school buildings each day.” — Intervention Specialist in northeast Ohio with more than 35 years of experience, who has not considered leaving teaching.

“I think the biggest thing that would make a difference is decreasing the workload mandates. I can't speak for teachers, but for Speech Language Pathologists, the workload ‘cap’ is too high with the needs students have now. Students with significant social-emotional concerns require more time for planning, the provision of materials, more time for behavioral supports within sessions, etc. Our students are just needier now and staff is not given the time or support we need in order to appropriately provide for our kids.” — Speech Language Pathologist in northwest Ohio with 12 years experience, who has considered leaving K-12 education.

“Members of state government can spend time in real classrooms to see the needs of student populations. Students do not need more state testing, they need stable homes, their basic needs met, safe neighborhoods, and the opportunity to be able to stay in school in order to have a chance at college or a career.” — Teacher in northwest Ohio with 21 years of experience, who has not considered leaving teaching.

“End the non-stop mandates and new directives. Stop compelling us (by means of funding) to chase every new educational fad and participate in impractical, theoretical teaching trends that compel us to reinvent the wheel about every few years. Do away with state testing (which is largely invalid and biased against lower income schools). Correct the school funding discrepancy that has increasingly widened the gap between the wealthy and poor school districts for decades. Allow us to focus on practical life-skills, meaningful vocational training and real learning.” — Teacher in southeast Ohio with 21 years of experience, who has seriously considered leaving K-12 education.

“Teachers need to be trusted and respected as the professionals we are to teach. The increasing expectations that continue to weigh on the children do not always cognitively align with the appropriate developmental stages which causes frustration. However, as teachers we are the ones in the classrooms following all of the mandates while watching the effect it has on children. I also believe there is too much of an emphasis on high stake testing. There is a rise in mental health concerns with children, however they continue to add to their stress with high stakes testing.” — Teacher in southwest Ohio with 14 years of experience, who has seriously considered leaving their school district and finding a teaching job elsewhere.

“Respect the educational professionals, stop making mandates and laws about what the teachers and schools must do and hold parents accountable. When mandates are made include funding. Ask people on the front lines for input before it is made a requirement. Reduce the amount of tests and allow students and teachers to get back to enjoying teaching and learning.” — Counselor with more than 25 years of experience, who has seriously considered leaving their school district and finding a similar job elsewhere.

“Allow autonomy in the classroom, making learning fun again. Avoid ‘teaching to the test’ and work to get students interested in learning again so the academic knowledge comes naturally rather than placing such a large emphasis on standardized testing.” — Teacher in northeast Ohio with 4 years of experience, who has seriously considered leaving K-12 education.

More extensive survey results are available on request. 

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