The results are in: CA’s teachers are “stressed”, “exhausted”, & “overwhelmed”.

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.

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 & inclusion within the school work environment.

Key Findings


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.


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.


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 (54%),  teachers 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.


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. 18 out of 25 aspiring teachers stated that financial costs influenced their ability to finish the teacher preparation program.


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.

Quotes from Teachers

I coached volleyball just so I could pay rent. I joined the instructional leadership team to get the extra stipend.
TK-5th grade teacher
I am mistaken for another Black [school staff member], even though we look nothing alike. I request that data on referrals and suspensions be broken down by gender and ethnicity, but I never get to see the data. Several teachers have touched my hair without my permission or asked me at staff meetings if my hair was real. I am constantly asked if I went to college or if I know my dad. White union leaders have stated that they think white people should be allowed to use the n-word. I went to the union about these issues and a white union leader told me that racism doesn't exist.
Black teacher