Writing for EdNote, authors Alyssa Rafa and Cassidy Francies present three state policy levers to support teacher mental health. Excerpts from the piece appear below:
While state policymakers have been working to improve student mental health for years, there has not been much legislative action related to teacher mental health. It is, however, an issue that warrants attention from policymakers. Even before the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic set in, survey results showed that 58% of teachers were experiencing challenges with their mental health. These challenges can negatively impact student outcomes and have consistently been cited among the key causes of teachers leaving the profession both before and throughout the pandemic.
Here, we highlight three policy options for state leaders to support teacher mental health:
Address Secondary Trauma in the Workplace. This direct approach to support teacher mental health is not yet common in state legislation. So far, there has only been one bill enacted that directly addresses this issue.
Support Teacher Mentorship. Teacher mentorship programs can foster a more supportive school environment, which research shows may reduce teacher stress. Providing teachers with support from a colleague in their early career is crucial to their ongoing success in the classroom. As of 2019, 31 states require induction and/or mentoring support for new teachers, though research shows that high-quality, comprehensive programs must incorporate a variety of components, such as appropriate timing and length, setting high standards and mentor criteria/training.
Implement Planning Time and Reduced Work Hours: Because research also demonstrates that job demands are a source of teacher stress, providing teachers with more planning time or reducing work hours may also improve teacher mental health. According to ECS’ 50-State Comparison on Teacher Recruitment and Retention, as of 2019, only 11 states required an established portion of a teacher’s workday to be designated for planning.