Full-time teachers worked, on average, about 14 hours more than they were contracted for, and many also worked jobs outside of the school system during the first full school year of the pandemic, according to the 2020-21 National Teacher and Principal Survey released Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics.
A regular full-time public school teacher worked an average of 52 hours a week on all school-related activities, even though they were required by contract to work only about an average 38 hours.
Some 17% of teachers, which NCES Commissioner Peggy Carr called a "significant share," also worked additional jobs. That's close to the 18% who had additional jobs in 2017-18, even before the onset of the pandemic.
"The 2021 school year made considerable demands on educators," said Carr during a news briefing Friday. "The efforts to keep students safe and learning results in long hours for teachers and principals across the country."
Carr said the need for additional instructional support, communications with parents, and greater challenges in staffing schools during the first school year of the pandemic contributed to these trends.
Schools struggled sometimes daily with decisions around how to deliver schooling for children in the 2020-21 school year, the first full school year of the pandemic. "During this tumultuous time, schools had a lot of trouble finding teachers to fill a critical role," Carr said.
In the 2020-21 school year, for example, public schools faced challenges filling vacancies across many different subject areas. Compared to the 2015-16 school year, public schools found it more difficult to fill openings in general elementary, special education, English or language arts, social studies and computer science, according to the latest NCES survey.
Among public schools with vacancies in special education, a bit over 40% either found it very difficult or were unable to fill those positions, compared to 31% in previous years.
The magnitude of vacancies ranged across states. For example, 12.1% of schools in Kentucky found it very difficult to or couldn't fill special education positions, compared to 65.7% in Alaska.
These variations align with a recent working paper published by Brown University's Annenberg Institute for School Reform in November that showed teacher vacancies are a localized issue in addition to a national phenomenon.
Regular, full-time public school teachers had an average base salary of $61,600 in the 2020-21 school year. That is more than their private school counterparts, who had an average base salary of $46,400.
A 2019 survey showed that despite long working hours, U.S. teachers were satisfied with their jobs. That may have changed, however, as more recent surveys taken during and after pandemic school closures showed teachers at risk of burnout.
A report published in November, for example, found anxiety for teachers to be higher than that of even healthcare workers during the pandemic. Another report,released in June, showed educators likely facing twice the job-related stress of other working adults.