July 7, 2022 | News

Georgia report offers district solutions to teacher burnout, retention

Writer: Asia Ashley

Published July 7, 2022
The Tifton Gazette

Top education officials in Georgia are looking reduce the number of teachers leaving the workforce due to teacher burnout, which educators say has increased during the pandemic.

Approximately 31% of educators say they are unlikely or highly unlikely to remain in education for another five years, according to a 2022 PAGE Legislative Survey conducted by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, comprised of more than 4,500 members.

"I have seen it personally as a classroom teacher and in my role as Georgia Teacher of the Year: Every year, Georgia is losing talented teachers to burnout," stated Cherie Bonder Goldman, 2022 Georgia Teacher of the Year. "This is to the detriment of Georgia’s students, whose success depends on having excellent, experienced teachers in the classroom."

At the request of the Georgia Department of Education, University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute facilitated a "Task Force on Teacher Burnout" this year comprised of teachers across Georgia to address factors contributing to teacher burnout and solutions.

The report indicates that while state testing requirements have been reduced, the number of district-level tests has increased.

The report states that local districts should eliminate redundant testing requirements, create a process for teacher input in the creation of new assessments, and re-evaluate the disproportionate weight of various tests.

Another area of burnout teachers conveyed is lack of time for planning and instruction, mostly due to meetings, trainings or added duties.

Local districts should compensate teachers who cover other classes or are assigned other duties during their planning time, the report suggests. Among the calls to action, the reports also states that districts should reform and streamline paperwork and data collection processes, and ensure adequate time for training and rollout of new initiatives, while protecting time for teachers to meet their existing obligations.

Much of the burnout is associated with pandemic-related pressures, with teachers citing unrealistic expectations to “return to normal” after the pandemic “without giving teachers the time, support, resources and compassion to meet students at their current academic level.”

The report recommends that districts balance and reduce class sizes to help teachers build relationships with their students, and increase funding for support staff such as for counselors, media specialists and paraprofessionals. The report also suggests developing plans that encourage and foster parent involvement, developing a mentoring program among teachers, and strengthening mental initiatives for staff and students.

While many districts have increased teacher salaries, the report further suggests districts extend teacher salary scale to fund step raises.

"Unfortunately, we are at great risk of losing many of these qualified educators if we do not take a careful look at say contributing to burnout in the profession," said Richard Woods, state school superintendent. "I encourage policymakers, district and school leaders, community members, and parents to review these recommendations and consider how they can be enacted within their schools and communities."

Dalton Public Schools in North Georgia included a 3.5% average salary scale improvement for teachers for the upcoming school year, and is adding 21 positions to include paraprofessionals, teachers and administrations, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The average starting pay for Georgia teachers is just over $38,000 ranking Georgia number 35 in the nation, according to National Education Association. NEA ranks Georgia No. 21 in the nation for average teacher pay, which is just over $60,000, the highest among all states in the South.

This year, teachers received the second and final payment ($2,000) of $5,000 bonus promised during Republican Gov. Brian Kemp's 2018 campaign. Democrat gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams recently announced a four-year plan to increase the starting pay for teachers to $50,000 and the average teacher salary to $75,000 annually, basing the proposal on Georgia tax collections growing at 3% per year.