Writer: Staff Reports
Published June 16, 2022
The Georgia Department of Education today released the report of its Teacher Burnout Task Force, composed of classroom teachers from across the state:
State School Superintendent Richard Woods convened, and 2022 Georgia Teacher of the Year Cherie Goldman chaired, the task force, which was established to provide feedback on the root causes of teacher burnout and make actionable suggestions for state and local policymakers.
“The data is clear, and I have seen it personally: every year, Georgia is losing talented teachers to burnout,” Goldman said. “This is to the detriment of Georgia’s students, whose success depends on having excellent, experienced teachers in the classroom. The teachers I know don’t want to walk away — but too many of them are running on empty. In this report, you will hear the raw, insightful voices of classroom teachers from across the state. I encourage schools, districts, parents, and communities to listen to those voices and the actionable strategies and solutions they present. They are an opportunity for all stakeholders to ensure collectively that education is an environment in which everyone thrives and stays connected to the shared dream that we all have for all that education can be. We cannot change how we got here, but we can change how we go forward.”
“It has always been a top priority of my administration to support those who directly support students – Georgia’s hardworking teachers,” Superintendent Woods said. “Unfortunately, we are going to lose many of those highly-qualified educators if we do not address the issues leading to burnout in the profession. This report was compiled by some of Georgia’s top teachers. I encourage policymakers, district and school leaders, community members, and parents to review their recommendations and take them seriously, finding ways to implement them within their schools and communities. We will do the same at the state level.”
The Teacher Burnout Task Force was composed of the ten finalists for 2022 Georgia Teacher of the Year, along with classroom-teacher representatives from the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, Georgia Association of Educators, and Educators First. Meetings of the task force were facilitated by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, which also compiled the report reflecting the teachers’ observations and suggestions.
Key findings of the Task Force are shared in the report as five themes/threads:
Assessment: While high-stakes testing requirements have been reduced at the state level to be more in line with federal testing requirements, the number of district-level tests has increased. The state, local school districts, and school leaders should work collaboratively to inventory, evaluate, and reduce tests and preserve instructional time.
Preserving and Protecting Time: Making up for lost in-person instructional time due to the pandemic is essential to the state’s academic recovery. Teachers’ planning and instructional time must be treated as sacred for this recovery to be successful and effective going forward.
Pressures and Unrealistic Expectations: Teachers have long faced unrealistic expectations that ultimately hinder student achievement. Coming out of the pandemic, the desire to “return to normal ” has also come with an unrealistic expectation that student learning and achievement immediately return to pre-pandemic levels, without giving teachers the time, support, resources, and compassion to meet their students where they are.
Teacher Voice and Professional Growth: Teachers serve on the frontlines and directly impact the learning of students. The state, local school districts, and school leaders should work collaboratively to reimagine an educational system that engages teacher voice and treats teachers as professionals.
Mental Health and Wellness: Just as it created stress on students and families, the pandemic both contributed additional stressors and exposed existing stressors on, and nonacademic barriers to, teachers and their work. The state, local school districts, and school leaders should work collaboratively to provide a stable and supportive environment where teachers and teacher morale are valued.
The report also includes a Framework for Action section, providing state policymakers and school and district leaders with guiding questions that are tied to the specific actions laid out in the five threads.
GaDOE encourages those leaders to review the report and its findings, along with the Framework for Action — and to include classroom teachers in those conversations whenever possible. Additionally, GaDOE will work to take state-level action based on the findings of the report where possible, and will advocate for legislative change where necessary.