Measuring Work Environments in Schools: How a Project Team Helped Advance the Conversation

STEM teacher turnover is highest in schools that serve students who are most in need, but there is little existing research on why that is and how it can be addressed. In 2019, the Measuring Positive Work Environment and Culture in Schools Project Team took up this challenge by investigating publicly accessible measures of teachers’ work environment, analyzing 14 measures using an equity framework. The Project Team grounded their work in three equity-focused statements: students are at the center of our work, equitable access to excellent teaching is the backdrop for this work, teachers should be considered professionals.

The Project Team set forth recommendations for researchers to better understand STEM teachers’ perceptions of the work environment, and published their research paper. Since then, Project Team leaders and all members have utilized this framework in their work and have noticed that states are increasingly focusing on retention strategies, not just recruitment strategies, including improving workplace culture. Project Team leaders have also become advocates for assessing work environments in schools, sharing this work with state leads focusing on supporting teachers and making recommendations for school and district leaders to promote the use of data to strengthen and nurture a positive work environment for STEM teachers.