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Commentary: How to make LAUSD teachers feel more appreciated — and less likely to leave the classroom

Sarina Sande | August 15, 2023

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Teacher satisfaction has reached an all time low in recent years. This is due to many of the new challenges brought on by the pandemic — including teacher turnover, compounded by teachers feeling undervalued — and leads to a larger question: What can we do to increase teacher retention in our schools and help teachers feel adequately appreciated?

Unsurprisingly, our 2023 “Voices from the Classroom” survey showed that higher salaries and elevated compensation would be the top way to retain more teachers. The good news is that many teachers’ contracts across the country, including educators at LAUSD, are increasing pay beyond mere cost of living adjustments, raising the average teacher salary 21% by 2025. 

But salary is not the only issue. 

I often hear from educators they are being asked to perform work beyond their allotted hours or to manage duties that fall outside the scope of their job. For example, some schools are cutting non-academic programs, and asking classroom teachers to take on teaching art, music, dance or physical education. One educator told me even though her high school is fully staffed, teachers are still asked to take on auxiliary classes, and sacrificing needed prep periods. As a former classroom teacher, I can attest to the frustrations caused by losing planning time and being spread too thin. 

If we want our educators to succeed, these issues need to be addressed.

In LAUSD, as well as across the country, we are hearing from teachers that they need more from their districts to feel valued in the classroom. Nationally, 87% of teachers agree the role of the classroom teacher has too many responsibilities. Teachers are being asked to do it all. This is not conducive to the teachers’ best performance or the best learning environment for students, and by piling these responsibilities onto an increasingly stressed teacher workforce, our schools are only hurting future retention rates.

In order to feel less overwhelmed and overworked, our educators need to have manageable workloads. They need to not be working on weekends, taking time away from their families, or spending evenings stressed out about the next school day. With decreased stress levels, teachers may be more inclined to stay in their LAUSD schools, ultimately creating more stable environments for all students and staff.

There are things we can do in the meantime to help support our educators and encourage the leaders in LAUSD to make necessary changes. We can bring teachers together to develop solutions to problems most commonly cited by educators in LAUSD; we can create more professional development opportunities, like the ”anti-racist teaching practices” micro-credential Educators for Excellence members championed and co-created last school year, to help teachers grow. 

We are at our strongest when we are working together in the best interests of our students and our teachers. We need to stand together in support of policies and practices that positively and equitably serve all students and educators throughout LAUSD. 

Our educators do so much, and they deserve to feel recognized and appreciated.

Sarina Sande is the Executive Director for Educators for Excellence — Los Angeles

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