Schools have been trying to return to normal after three years of closures, disruption and setbacks, so it’s no surprise that the pandemic has taken a toll on educators’ morale.

Yet, thus far, public school educators nationally have not left their jobs at notably higher rates than before the pandemic began. Even so, poor morale among educators is concerning. Given how many teachers enter the profession through social networks, poor morale among today’s educators might dissuade tomorrow’s from entering the field. This sets up possible future teacher shortages in an already thin market. Moreover, teachers who are stressed out are absent often, and educator burnout can harm student achievement. Together, these factors could hamper students’ efforts to recover from pandemic-related disruptions to schooling.

But not all educators’ morale has been equally affected by the pandemic. In our nationally representative American Educator Panel surveys, morale has significantly declined among principals and teachers throughout the pandemic — but not among superintendents. As of spring 2022, 85% of superintendents said that, considering everything, they are satisfied with their jobs. Eighty-seven percent feel valued, despite most saying their job is getting harder. In contrast, only 44% of teachers and 60% of principals feel the stress and disappointments of their job are worth it—satisfaction levels far below what they were before the pandemic began.

Likewise, only 13% of superintendents said they plan to leave their positions by the end of the 2021-22 school year, compared to 33% of teachers and 34% of principals. Importantly, the proportion of superintendents who said they plan to leave is on par with pre-pandemic annual turnover estimates, while the proportion of teachers and principals who said they intend to leave has grown throughout the pandemic and is now significantly higher than the percentage of teachers and principals who typically leave in a single school year. Of course, survey responses about intention to leave often overstate actual turnover. But the disparity between superintendents on the one hand and the teachers and principals on the other provide a potentially important clue about the reasons for the divergence in educators’ morale.

Read the full article about educator morale by Elizabeth D. Steiner, Heather Schwartz, and Melissa Kay Diliberti at The 74.