As California Grapples with Teacher Shortage, Statewide Survey Finds Major Barriers for Building & Sustaining Teaching Profession

Survey of more than 4,600 California educators published by UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools and CTA underscores challenges to California’s teaching workforce 

BURLINGAME — A new survey of more than 4,600 current teachers in California finds that while teachers enter the profession to help students and make a difference, many teachers today are feeling acute levels of stress, job dissatisfaction, and are considering leaving the profession. The findings underscore significant challenges to teacher retention and the recruitment and preparation of aspiring teachers, especially teachers of color.

“Nothing matters more for a student’s future than to have a caring, high-quality educator in every classroom. Unfortunately, this data confirms what we’ve been hearing from educators anecdotally. Not only are we experiencing an urgent teacher shortage, but many of our educators are barely hanging on,” said E. Toby Boyd, California Teachers Association (CTA) President and a kindergarten educator. “Exhausting. Stressful. Frustrating. Overwhelming. These are the top four words educators chose to best describe what it’s like to teach right now. Students deserve high-quality teachers that are paid a professional salary, can afford to live where they teach and are supported in the classroom. We can solve this educator recruitment and retention crisis, but it’s going to take acknowledgement, commitment and collaboration.”

Published today by the CTA, UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools (CTS) and Hart Research Associates, the report, Voices from the Classroom: Developing a Strategy for Teacher Retention and Recruitment, details results from a quantitative survey of 4,632 current TK-12th grade teachers in California conducted by Hart Research Associates on behalf of CTS and CTA. The report also includes insights from in-depth interviews with former and aspiring teachers who have taught or plan to teach in California.

The survey results reveal alarming findings related to job satisfaction and future outlook, teacher retention, and diversity and inclusion within the school work environment. Key among the findings:

Job Satisfaction and Future Outlook
While many current California teachers find their work rewarding and fulfilling, they also feel exhausted and stressed. Teachers were more likely to choose words like “Exhausting” (68%), “Stressful” (61%), “Frustrating” (49%) and “Overwhelming” (51%) to describe how they felt about their current position as a teacher over words like “Rewarding” (34%), “Fulfilling” (29%), “Enjoyable” (22%) and “Empowering” (14%). The majority expressed low levels of satisfaction with key aspects of their job.

Teacher Retention
Four in ten teachers surveyed said they have considered leaving the profession. Twenty percent (1 in 5) said they will probably or definitely leave the profession within the next three years. Burnout from stress (57%) was the top listed reason for leaving the profession, with political attacks on teachers ranking as the second highest reason (40%). Other reasons include workload, low pay, student apathy and behavioral issues, and lack of support from district administrators.

“We’ve reached a tipping point. Teachers are continuously being asked to do more with less,” said Dr. Tyrone Howard, Co-Faculty Director of UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools. “It’s an unfair ask. Our teachers deserve more than what we are giving them.”

Diversity and Inclusion Within the School Work Environment
Many current teachers of color, especially Black teachers, said they have experienced discrimination and do not feel comfortable expressing themselves at their school site. Aspiring and former teachers of color share that feeling comfortable and a part of their school community was directly tied to whether their students and their families, peers, and leadership had similar racial/ethnic backgrounds to their own. While more than half of white teachers expressed high satisfaction that their work environment is free of discrimination and prejudice, the percentage is below 50 percent for teachers of color. Additionally, more than six out of ten Black teachers (62%) and half of Asian-American/Pacific Islander teachers (54%) surveyed said they have experienced racial discrimination in their current position.

Less than half of teachers strongly agreed that the environment at their school is supportive of different cultures (41%) and different identities (36%). Only 31% believe that their fellow teachers demonstrate a genuine commitment to cultivating diversity. Four in ten LGBTQ+ teachers reported discrimination based on their sexual orientation in their current teaching position.

“If we want to attract and retain a diverse teacher workforce, our schools and working environments have to do better at accommodating diversity,” said Dr. Kai Mathews, Project Director for The California Educator Diversity Project for the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools and researcher on the project. “We have a tendency to think that diversity begins and ends with the demographics of a population, but we know that diversity efforts either succeed or fail based on the accessibility and inclusivity of an organization’s culture.”

Teacher Preparation Programs
Aspiring teachers provided insights on teacher preparation programs, including the importance of real-time teaching experiences and concerns about the workload and required state teacher assessments. Compensating student teachers was suggested by a significant number of the aspiring teachers and is viewed as a very important policy change that will help alleviate financial stress at an important time in the teacher preparation process. Eighteen out of 25 aspiring teachers stated that financial costs influenced their ability to finish the teacher preparation program.

Practices and Policies to Improve Teacher Retention
Over 88% of teachers identified better pay as the top priority state and local officials should prioritize in order to improve teacher retention, followed by smaller class sizes, stronger discipline policies for students who behave disruptively, better staffing and a more manageable workload, and more support services for students. The majority (80%) of teachers surveyed said it is difficult to find affordable housing near their place of employment, while 68% said it is difficult for them to keep up with basic expenses and the cost of living; and to save for retirement. Former teachers expressed concerns regarding classroom and relationship management and indicated a desire for more professional opportunities for teachers (especially those who are newer to the field) to learn relationship-based skill sets to manage interactions with students, other teachers, administrators and parents.

Voices from the Classroom: Developing a Strategy for Teacher Retention and Recruitment is a project of the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools and the California Teachers Association. Funding for the research has been provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William + Flora Hewlett Foundation. The report, including an executive summary, can be found online at


The 310,000-member California Teachers Association is affiliated with the 3 million-member National Education Association.