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Two Years Later: How COVID-19 has Shaped the Teacher Workforce

The Covid-19 pandemic sparked extreme challenges as teachers navigated school closures, managed complicated health guidance, learned new technologies, and dealt with harassment caused by mask and social distancing policies. Now, two years into the pandemic, researchers are wondering if these obstacles resulted in larger-than-usual teacher turnover. 

In a new working paper from the Annenberg Institute, authors Olivia L. Chi, Alexis Orellana, and Andrew Bacher-Hicks from Boston University analyzed administrative records of Massachusetts educators to better understand the pandemic’s impact on the teacher workforce. 

The researchers found that teacher turnover rates in Massachusetts remained stable during the first year of the pandemic but increased by roughly 17 percent–from 15 percent in the 2019-20 school year to 17.5 percent in 2021-22. Some of the churn involved teachers moving to different schools within the state.

Turnover grew fastest among newly hired teachers, showcasing the difficulty of entering (and remaining in) the teaching profession during the pandemic. Additionally, the authors discovered that turnover increased across all experience levels and grew more rapidly among white teachers.​​ The instructors replacing them tended to be more ethnically and racially diverse.

This report’s findings suggest that school systems need to prioritize retention, particularly among newly hired teachers, to achieve workforce stability and sustain teacher diversity post-Covid. 

-Nathan Kriha