Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

PSU Convenes Forum to Discuss Culture of Health in Schools

Teacher Well-being: Innovation and New Frontiers Forum at the Barbara Jordan Conference Center in Washington, D.C. on December 9 sponsored by Penn State University, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and New York University. Teacher Intervention Panel (from left to right) Kim Schonert-Reichl, Ph.D., University of British Columbia; Meria Carstarphen, Ed.D., Superintendent - Atlanta Schools; Jonathan Raymond, J.D., President, Stuart Foundation; and Karen Bierman, Ph.D., Penn State University.

According to a Gallup Report, 46 percent of teachers report high daily stress. High levels of stress are affecting teacher health and well-being, causing teacher burnout and some of the highest turnover rates ever. The cost teacher turnover is estimated to be over $7 billion per year.

To address this escalating problem, Penn State University, along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and New York University, hosted a discussion on "Teacher Well-Being: Innovation and New Frontiers" on December 9th at The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation's Barbara Jordan Conference Center in Washington, D.C.

An invited group of over 50 professionals attended to hear representatives from national teacher unions and organizations, educational advocacy organizations, applied researchers, state and local superintendents, systems theorists, and officials from philanthropic foundations with interest in how to improve the culture and health of schools, teachers, and children.

“We were thrilled to see so many people who are passionate about advocating for improvements in the lives of teachers and the health of our schools,” said Dr. Mark Greenberg of the Penn State Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, who led the forum.

The forum was a follow-on to a policy brief written by Dr. Greenberg, Dr. Joshua Brown of Fordham University, and Dr. Rachel Abenavoli, a post-doctoral fellow at New York University. The brief, entitled Teacher Stress and Health: Effects on Teachers, Students, and Schools, outlines policies and practices to advance evidence-based models that will improve the lives of teachers, their quality of instruction, and their retention in the profession.

“Teaching has always been a complex undertaking. But in the past decade, we have seen teacher satisfaction at an all-time low, more reports of higher stress levels in teachers, and a growing rate of teachers leaving the profession,” said Dr. Greenberg. “High teacher turnover not only impacts costs to our educational system, but also results in lower student achievement.”

Featured speakers, in addition to Dr. Greenberg, were Monica Hobbs Vinluan, J.D. and Tracy Costigan, Ph.D. of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Patricia Jennings, Ph.D., University of Virginia; Teresa McIntyre, Ph.D., University of Houston; Anthony Bryk, Ph.D., Carnegie Foundation; and Tim Shriver, Ph.D., National Committee on Social and Emotional Development.

Panels discussed the many factors that influence teacher well-being, from personal issues to organizational support to major policy decisions. Topics included teacher stress and induction, mindfulness and stress reduction interventions, and organizational changes and challenges.

“The reaction from the participants underscored the fact that there is a need for greater innovation in developing and accessing ways to reduce teacher stress and improve the culture in our schools,” said Dr. Greenberg.

The Teacher Stress and Health brief is the first in a series of ten briefs to be published by Penn State University with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation over the next two years. The briefs will focus on various issues related to student social and emotional development. Penn State also developed a short animated video summarizing the brief’s key issues. More on social and emotional learning can be found at