- A report from the Colorado Department of Education and Colorado Education Initiative shows the coronavirus pandemic is putting a strain on the state's teacher workforce, with an average of 6% leaving the profession and 2% taking leaves of absence. Teacher mental health is a top priority for 90% of district respondents in preventing burnout and turnover.
Emotional support for students was also cited as the top educational need in the spring, though that shifted to addressing K-3 reading loss for the fall. Additionally, only 26 of the 140 districts surveyed are offering childcare services.
Since spring, device and connectivity needs dropped to about 30,000 students. Rural districts' device needs dropped from 33% in the spring to 15% in the fall, but they also saw the least change in connectivity.
Some teachers are trying to teach both in-person and remotely, and that is causing exhaustion and burnout. Adding to the pressure is the fact educators are also often being called on to fill the role of social worker and counselor, connecting students to services and guiding them through challenging emotions. Teachers are seeing students depressed and anxious from isolation, and sometimes they are grieving the loss of loved ones.
More than a third of Illinois Education Association members polled said they have considered a career change, and 69% feel it is “not very” or “not at all likely” that schools can reopen with safe protocols. Another 76% said this year’s workload is “somewhat” or “much” heavier than last year, and 66% have been more “burned out” than usual.
“This should sound the alarm for every person in Illinois who values our children and their education,” Kathi Griffin, president of IEA, said in a statement. “We are already in the middle of a teacher shortage. Teacher retirements are at their highest rate in five years, and others are considering switching careers. We need to figure out how to keep our talented people in education. And we think the best way to do that is by asking local health departments to intervene when school boards and/or administrations aren’t keeping their students and staff safe.”
In another example of teachers opting to leave the profession early, a National Education Association poll found 28% of teachers were likely to leave the profession or retire because of COVID-19. One in five teachers with less than 10 years experience expressed this sentiment, as did 40% of teachers with 21 to 30 years of experience and 55% of teachers with more than 30 years under their belt.