The State of Teaching: 4 Takeaways for Education Companies in the Market

Staff Writer
A New Analysis Looks at What Teachers Want From PD, EdWeek Market Brief

A new analysis takes a penetrating look at the lives of teachers, examining the training and support they need, how they perceive their own profession, and their morale.

Education Week’s newly launched report, The State of Teaching, features national data and reporting on the teaching profession, including a year-over-year measure of teachers’ enthusiasm and confidence known as the Teacher Morale Index.

Among the issues the report explores are teachers’ hours of work, their professional development needs, the impact of staffing shortages, and how school principals’ perceptions in these areas align — or don’t — with teachers’ perspectives.

For education companies supporting K-12 schools, understanding the challenges teachers face and the nuance between what educators and administrators value can be critical to keeping a client and offering meaningful support.

Teachers, along with students, are the end-users of many educational products. Vendors rely on classroom educators to play a big role in implementing products in schools, from digital curricula to educational games to assessments to interventions. When teachers don’t buy into a platform or tool that district or school administrators have chosen, it can undermine its chances of producing meaningful benefits.

Many companies also want to support educators through professional development either connected to their products or to broader instructional skills. Teacher staffing shortages, and an influx of new educators into the field, can shape the type of PD vendors are capable of providing.

EdWeek’s analysis is based on an EdWeek Research Center nationally representative online survey of 1,498 teachers conducted in October of last year, along with a separate, nationally representative online poll of 659 school leaders in the same time period.

Here are four major takeaways from the report that are important for vendors to know.

1. Be Warned: Many Teachers See PD as Irrelevant

Nearly half of teachers, 48 percent, say the professional development provided by their district or a paid vendor that they are required to take is irrelevant or not connected to their current teaching job, EdWeek’s report found.

The same percentage of teachers also say they received too much PD in the past year.

Principals seem to disagree. When asked the same question about PD’s relevance to their teachers’ jobs, the vast majority — 84 percent — say it is on target. And nearly half, 48 percent, feel teachers receive too little training.

Vendors seeking to provide training as part of their offerings should keep in mind that the time teachers want to spend on PD contrasts with what their principals would like to see.

These results also reinforce the calls for PD offerings that have features that can be tailored to individual teachers’ or districts’ needs, ideas that have come up in EdWeek Market Brief’s reporting.

2. Among Those Who Want PD, Training on Digital Tools Ranks Relatively High

When it comes to what areas of focus teachers need most from PD right now, technology training ranks high.

According to the report 13 percent of teachers say they need training on using technology or digital tools effectively.

This answer came second only to teachers saying they don’t need any PD right now (19 percent).

It’s also worth noting that when principals were asked the same question on what PD their teachers need most, very few (4 percent) pointed to technology.

This difference in perception may mean that school leaders undervalue tech training that teachers would appreciate — something vendors providing digital programs or products should consider.

For education companies offering PD, it’s worth remembering that school principals in a district may have a different view of that training than teachers do. Teachers appear to be more skeptical of several forms of PD, and so vendors may have to work harder with classroom educators in explaining its value.

3. Teachers Want to Feel Like They Have Autonomy

A less rigid approach to instructional design in which individual educators believe they have some power to decide which curriculum and pedagogy to use in their classroom, is preferred by teachers, according to the report.

On a scale of 0 to 10 — with 0 being complete instructional autonomy and 10 being an entirely standardized approach — teachers’ preference falls in the middle, with a median score of 5.

Principals, on the other hand, favor more structure, with a median score of 7.

For vendors, this speaks to the challenge of finding the right balance between flexibility or customization and offering consistency across classrooms or schools.

4. Morale Is a Particular Problem in Urban Schools

Morale among teachers is one of the biggest challenge in K-12 education. But in taking a closer look, EdWeek’s report found that teachers in urban schools struggle with motivation on the job.

More than half, 55 percent, of teachers who work in urban schools say their personal morale has worsened compared to one year ago — a larger percentage of teachers than those who work in town, suburban, or rural schools who share that view.

Only 17 percent of urban teachers say their morale has improved, while 28 percent say their morale has stayed the same.

It’s worth noting that years out from the pandemic, despite schools returning to in-person instruction and in many cases investing time and money in support for educators’ well-being, schools are still seeing declines in this area.

Teachers today are facing immense pressure to make up for COVID-era learning loss. They’re also grappling with challenges posed by ongoing staffing shortages, and uncertainty around district and school budgets.

Vendors serving districts — especially those in urban areas — might want to consider creative strategies for supporting educators. Those could include making sure their PD sessions and implementation support includes check-ins on teachers’ well-being; reducing any burdens associated with implementing new products; and customizing support for educators who may be new to the profession.

Explore the full State of Teaching Report here.

Image source Portra/E+/Getty.

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