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REL Central Ask A REL Response

Teacher Workforce

August 2018


What impact do working conditions have on teacher health and well-being?


Following an established REL Central research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles to help answer the question. The resources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic databases, and general Internet search engines. (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. We have not evaluated the quality of the references provided in this response, and we offer them only for your information. Also, we compiled the references from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant sources may exist.

Research References

Dana, L. B. (2014). Relationships among job satisfaction, professional efficacy, student and school performance, and teacher absenteeism (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from
Full text available

From the abstract:

“The purpose of this study was to determine the relationships among job satisfaction, professional efficacy, student and school performance, and teacher absenteeism in Mississippi. This study also addressed methods that can be used by policymakers to better ensure low rates of absenteeism. The study measured the relationship between teachers’ satisfaction with workplace conditions, socioeconomic status of schools, teacher compensation, professional efficacy, student and school performance, and rates of teacher absenteeism. In addition, the study provided participants with the opportunity to suggest methods that can be used by policymakers to better ensure low rates of absenteeism.

The study involved a mixed methods design that yielded quantitative and qualitative data. The study used an original instrument entitled Teacher Job Satisfaction and Professional Efficacy (TJSPE). The instrument utilized 45 questions to gather data about teacher job satisfaction, professional efficacy, student and school performance, and teacher absenteeism. Teachers of grades 3–5 in the state of Mississippi were asked to participate in the study.

The quantitative portion of the study indicated that there was not a relationship between workplace conditions and rates of teacher absenteeism. There was not a significant relationship between satisfaction with compensation and rates of teacher absenteeism. And, there was not a significant relationship between professional efficacy and rates of teacher absenteeism. On the other hand, there was a significant moderate inverse relationship between the socioeconomic status of schools and rates of teacher absenteeism. Contrary to much of the extant literature, there was a significant moderate relationship between Mississippi’s school performance metric, QDI, and rates of teacher absenteeism.

Responses to the qualitative portion of the study provided a set of recommendations that administrators and policymakers might implement in order to improve working conditions, satisfaction with compensation, professional efficacy, and teacher attendance. Respondents indicated a need for more time in order to be effective teachers. Respondents indicated a desire for compensation packages to be more attractive. Respondents indicated a desire for greater administrative support in order to gain a better sense of self-efficacy among faculty members. Finally, respondents indicated that administrative support, recognition, and professional development would be beneficial in improving teacher attendance.

The study also included recommendations for further research to assist in decreasing teacher absenteeism. It was the researcher’s goal to add useful insights and policy considerations related that might lessen the occurrence of teacher absenteeism. It is hoped that this study furthers that aim.”

Halstead, E. O. (2013). Teacher satisfaction and turnover in WCPSS (D&A Report No. 13.11). Cary, NC: Wake County Public School System. Retrieved from

From the abstract:

“During the spring of 2010, over 9,000 educators across Wake County Public Schools (WCPSS) took the North Carolina Teacher Working Conditions (TWC) survey. Survey responses were then compared to turnover data to see if there is any relationship between the two. Results indicated that teachers’ satisfaction with their working conditions were positively associated with the percentage of teachers who stayed at their school the following year. These findings are discussed in terms of implications for improving staff retention rates at schools.”

Johnson, S. M., Kraft, M. A., & Papay, J. P. (2012). How context matters in high-need schools: The effects of teachers’ working conditions on their professional satisfaction and their students’ achievement. Teachers College Record, 114(10), 1–39. Retrieved fromm
Full text available

From the abstract:

Background/Context: Educational policymakers have begun to recognize the challenges posed by teacher turnover. Schools and students pay a price when new teachers leave the profession after only two or three years, just when they have acquired valuable teaching experience. Persistent turnover also disrupts efforts to build a strong organizational culture and to sustain coordinated instructional programs throughout the school. Retaining effective teachers is a particular challenge for schools that serve high proportions of low-income and minority students. Although some interpret these turnover patterns as evidence of teachers’ discontent with their students, recent large-scale quantitative studies provide evidence that teachers choose to leave schools with poor work environments, and that these conditions are most common in schools that minority and lowincome students typically attend (Boyd et al., 2011; Ladd, 2009 & 2011; Borman & Dowling, 2008; Loeb, Darling-Hammond & Luczak, 2005). Thus, mounting evidence suggests that the seeming relationship between student demographics and teacher turnover is driven, not by teachers’ responses to their students, but by the conditions in which they must teach and their students are obliged to learn.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: We build on this body of work by further examining how working conditions predict both teachers’ job satisfaction and their career plans. We use a broad conception of the context of teachers’ work, paying attention not only to narrowly defined working conditions, but also to the interpersonal and organizational contexts in which teachers work. We also extend Ladd’s (2009) analysis describing the relationship between the work context and student achievement. Advancing our understanding of this relationship is particularly important, given the increasing emphasis legislators place on evidence of student achievement when evaluating education policy. Specifically, we ask three research questions: (i) Do the conditions of work in Massachusetts public schools affect teachers’ satisfaction with their jobs and their career plans? (ii) Are schools with better conditions of work more successful in raising student performance than schools with less supportive working conditions? (iii) If the conditions of work are important, what elements of the work environment matter the most?

Research Design: In this paper, we combine a statewide survey of school working conditions (Mass TeLLS) with demographic and student achievement data from Massachusetts. We examine three primary outcomes: teacher satisfaction, teacher career intentions, and student achievement growth. From different items on the Mass TeLLS, we construct a set of nine key elements that reflect the broad-based conditions in which teachers work. We fit standard regression models that describe the relationship between each outcome and both overall conditions of work and each element separately, modeling this relationship according to the properties of our outcome variables.

Findings/Results: We find that measures of the school environment explain away much of the apparent relationship between teacher satisfaction and student demographic characteristics. The conditions in which teachers work matter a great deal to them and, ultimately, to their students. Teachers are more satisfied and plan to stay longer in schools that have a positive work context, independent of the school’s student demographic characteristics. Furthermore, although a wide range of working conditions matter to teachers, the specific elements of the work environment that matter the most to teachers are not narrowly conceived working conditions such as clean and well-maintained facilities or access to modern instructional technology. Instead, it is the social conditions–the school’s culture, the principal’s leadership, and relationships among colleagues–that predominate in predicting teachers’ job satisfaction and career plans. More importantly, providing a supportive context in which teachers can work appears to contribute to improved student achievement. We find that favorable conditions of work predict higher rates of student academic growth, even when we compare schools serving demographically similar groups of students.

Conclusions/Recommendations: In short, we find that the conditions of teachers’ work matter a great deal. These results align with a growing body of work examining the organizational characteristics of the schools in which teachers work (Boyd et al., 2011; Ladd, 2011). Together, these studies suggest strongly that the high turnover rates of teachers in schools with substantial populations of low-income and minority students are driven largely by teachers fleeing the dysfunctional and unsupportive work environments in the schools to which low-income and minority students are most likely to be assigned. If public education is to provide effective teachers for all students, then the schools those students attend must become places that support effective teaching and learning across all classrooms.”

Jonathan, G. K., & Mbogo, R. W. (2016). Maintaining health and safety at workplace: Employee and employer’s role in ensuring a safe working environment. Journal of Education and Practice, 7(29), 1–7. Retrieved from

From the abstract:

“The concern for health and safety is legitimate in every context of human enterprise. In schools, for teaching staff’s safety to be guaranteed, the equipment available should be properly maintained and installation for nonexistent ones done according to the health and safety policies. With a focus on Mbooni West district, this paper reports the findings of a survey which focused on the health and safety of teachers in secondary schools in the region. Many secondary school administrators do not consider teaching staff’s involvement in recommending policies and procedures in curbing safety hazards. This makes it difficult for the teaching staff to take responsibility for their own safety. The study thus sought to establish teachers’ perspectives on their role in ensuring health and safety workplaces in secondary schools. The study targeted all teachers and deputy principals working under Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and those working under the secondary schools’ Board of Management (BOM). Although the study aimed survey principles, they were not available during the data collection period. The study was conducted using the descriptive research design. A questionnaire guide was used for data collection which was then analyzed by the use of Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) version 20. Frequency tables and charts were used for data presentation. From the findings, it emerged that majority of the teaching staff were not involved in the training programs that would equip them with safety skills in their workplace. Most of them were not involved in discussing safety policies in the workplace. This to a large extent jeopardized the safety of teachers at workplace affecting their preparedness on matters pertaining health hazards and thus their general performance. It is recommended that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, in conjunction with the school administrations organize training programs for the teaching staff, involve teachers in discussion of safety policies to align them with the institutions strategic plans as far as Health and Safety at workplace is concerned.”

Ladd, H. F. (2009). Teachers’ perceptions of their working conditions: How predictive of policy-relevant outcomes? (CALDER Working Paper 33). Washington, DC: National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, The Urban Institute. Retrieved from

From the abstract:

“This quantitative study uses data from North Carolina to examine the extent to which survey based perceptions of working conditions are predictive of policy-relevant outcomes, independent of other school characteristics such as the demographic mix of the school’s students. Working conditions emerge as highly predictive of teachers’ stated intentions to remain in or leave their schools, with leadership emerging as the most salient dimension. Teachers’ perceptions of their working conditions are also predictive of one-year actual departure rates and student achievement, but the predictive power is far lower. These weaker findings for actual outcome measures help to highlight both the strengths and weaknesses of using teacher survey data for understanding outcomes of policy interest.”

Lee, M., Goodman, C., Dandapani, N., & Kekahio, W. (2015). Review of international research on factors underlying teacher absenteeism (REL 2015–087). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Pacific. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract:

“Throughout the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Region, teacher absenteeism has posed a long-standing challenge. This report draws on research literature from international contexts and case studies to identify the underlying factors that may relate to teacher absenteeism. Resources included in this report were selected with a focus on non-U.S. Pacific entities and emerging economy contexts that might be most relevant to the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands. Different search parameters were used to determine the scope of U.S./international literature to include in the review. The report found five main themes to consider in relation to teacher absenteeism: pay structure (for example, direct or indirect working relationship with the school), management (for example, school governance), working conditions (for example, school culture or single- vs. multi-grade classroom structure), community conditions (for example, teachers’ proximity to the school), and social and cultural responsibilities (for example, illness, funeral attendance, and care of family members). Predictors of absenteeism vary across place and context. Given the diversity of Pacific Region communities, stakeholders should examine the extent to which the context and results of the research in this review correspond to the social, structural, cultural, and environmental characteristics of their own contexts.”

Shirrell, M., & Reininger, M. (2017). School working conditions and changes in student teachers’ planned persistence in teaching. Teacher Education Quarterly, 44(2), 49–78. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract:

“This study examines the relationship between the working conditions of student teaching schools and changes in student teachers’ planned persistence in teaching. Planned persistence (and a related construct, initial commitment) is an important predictor of initial entry (Rots, Aelterman, Vlerick, & Vermeulen, 2007) and actual persistence in teaching (Chapman, 1984; Chapman & Green, 1986; Johnson & Birkeland, 2003), making planned persistence an important outcome of interest. This study quantifies the working conditions of student teaching schools in two ways: first, using surveys of more than 1,000 student teachers who student taught in one large urban district during 2 years, and second, using several years of district administrative data on in-service teacher stability in those schools. These measures of school working conditions are used to predict changes during student teaching in student teachers’ planned persistence in education, teaching, and the district where they student taught. These analyses shed light on whether the broader school workplace matters to student teachers as they make plans for their future careers or whether other aspects of student teaching are more important, and have implications for the decisions student teaching programs–and school districts–make about where to place student teachers.”


Keywords and Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Teacher well-being
  • Teacher, workhours, health, well-being
  • “Education environment” AND “teacher health” OR well-being OR wellbeing
  • “Teacher work conditions” AND health
  • Health AND “work conditions”
  • Health AND “work environment”
  • “Teacher absenteeism”

Databases and Resources

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the Publication: References and resources published between 2008 and 2018 were included in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority was given to ERIC, followed by Google Scholar, and Google.
  • Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were used in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types–randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive analyses, literature reviews; and (b) target population and sample.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Central Region (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Central at Marzano Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Central under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0005, administered by Marzano Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.