Wake County teachers remain concerned about staffing shortages and learning loss, but most are sticking around for another year, according to a recent survey conducted by the state. 

The NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey, a statewide survey of educators in K-12 public schools, is conducted every two years. The last survey, in 2020, fell in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. 

This year, as schools are recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers and other school staff were asked to select the top five issues of most concern.

In Wake County, the responses were: addressing disparities in student learning (24 percent), school staffing shortages (17 percent), social and emotional support for students (15 percent), assessing student performance and needs (11 percent), and the health and safety of teachers and staff (10 percent).

Despite those concerns, however, about 77 percent of school staff plan to continue teaching at their current school. About 8 percent said they’d leave education entirely, while another 8 percent said they’d continue teaching in Wake County but move schools. 

The biggest factor in teachers’ decisions about whether or not they’ll keep teaching was school leadership (36 percent), according to the survey. The next biggest was time during the workday (18 percent).

In the Wake County Public School System, which includes 194 schools, the majority of the respondents to the survey (88 percent) were veteran teachers. About 60 percent of the teachers who filled out the survey had more than 11 years of experience. 

Survey respondents—which also include principals (2 percent), assistant principals (3 percent), and school support staff such as social workers (8 percent)—were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with certain statements about education in Wake County. Respondents could tick one of five boxes: strongly disagree, disagree, agree, strongly agree, or don’t know. 

The Pandemic

Teachers remain concerned about the learning loss and mental health of their students. About 42 of Wake County school staff said their students needed much more social, emotional, and mental health support than at this same time last year. About 30 percent said students needed “somewhat more” support than last year. 

Students are also behind academically. About 72 percent of school staff said their students’ academic progress was lagging, and that students were three to 12 months behind compared to where they were last year. About 25 percent of staff said their students were in about the same place, academically. 

Do Teachers Have Enough Time To Teach? 

As Wake County schools remain short-staffed, teachers remain concerned about the amount of time they have for classroom instruction, as well as for non-classroom activities like lesson planning and training. 

About 37 percent of school staff said class sizes are too big for teachers to meet the needs of all students. About 29 percent said teachers don’t have enough non-instructional time. In addition:

— 31 percent said efforts are not made to minimize the amount of routine paperwork teachers are required to do;

— 30 percent said teachers are not protected from duties that interfere with their essential role of educating students;

— 29 percent said teachers don’t have enough instructional time to meet the needs of all students;

—27 percent said teachers are not allowed to focus on educating students with minimal interruptions; and

—24 percent said teachers don’t have enough time to collaborate with colleagues.

Teacher Training

Some teachers also have concerns about the training they receive. About 26 percent of school staff said not enough time was provided for professional development, which is ongoing training teachers receive to use new educational resources or improve their performance in the classroom.  

About 34 percent of school staff said professional development sessions were not tailored to teachers’ individual needs.

In addition, some teachers felt like they did not receive enough instructional support. About 28 percent of school staff said teachers were not encouraged to observe other teachers within their school or district. About 26 percent said they were not assigned classes that maximized their likelihood of success. About 22 percent said teachers did not have autonomy to make decisions about how they taught. 

A Teacher’s Role

About 35 percent of survey respondents indicated teachers have little or no role in selecting instructional materials and resources. On the other hand, most respondents indicated they had a moderate or large role in devising teaching techniques and setting grading standards. 

About 44 percent of school staff also indicated that teachers had little or no role in establishing rules for student discipline, compared to 49 percent who said they had a moderate or large role. School staff were similarly split on a teacher’s role in selecting new teachers for the school—47 percent said they had little or no role, while 41 percent said they had a moderate or large role. 

More than half of school staff, about 57 percent, said they had little or no role in forming the school budget. Only about 27 percent said they had a moderate or large role. 

Student Conduct And Equity

Concerns about student conduct also arose in the survey. About 37 percent of school staff said students do not follow school rules. About 36 percent said administrators do not consistently enforce rules.

About 29 percent said school rules are not applied equitably to all students, while about 20 percent said all students are not treated equitably, justly, and fairly. 

Community Support

Interestingly, the majority of school staff in Wake County generally agreed that schools communicate clearly with the community, do a good job encouraging parent involvement, and that parents know what is going on in schools, contradicting recent criticisms of the school system by conservative community members and politicians. 

About 71 percent said parents and guardians are influential decision-makers at school. 

When it came to whether parents supported teachers, about 19 percent of respondents disagreed, while about 77 percent agreed. Overwhelmingly, teachers said the community is supportive of their schools. 

School Administration

Most school staff agreed that teacher performance is assessed objectively, teachers receive constructive feedback, and faculty are recognized for their accomplishments. 

About a quarter of respondents, however, disagreed that there was an “atmosphere of trust and mutual respect” in schools. Likewise, about 28 percent of school staff said teachers don’t feel comfortable raising issues important to them, and about 21 percent said school leadership is inconsistent in their support of teachers. 

About 22 percent of school staff said school leaders do not make a sustained effort to address teacher concerns about the use of time in school.

Likewise, about 27 percent of school staff said leaders failed to address concerns about managing student conduct. 

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Follow Staff Writer Jasmine Gallup on Twitter or send an email to jgallup@indyweek.com.