Surveys show troubling trends in student behavior

Superintendents cite insufficient budget as one challenge preventing them from adequately addressing student mental health crises

Eighty-four percent of teachers are concerned about student mental health, saying that students are developmentally behind in self-regulation and relationship building compared to students prior to the pandemic. Teachers also report that they are increasingly the target of disruptive student behavior and that classroom incidents involving physical violence have more than doubled since the onset of the pandemic.

These are among the findings of a new survey report from education company EAB at the School Superintendent Association (AASA) National Conference on Education (#NCE2023). The report summarizes findings from a survey of more than 1,000 district and school administrators, teachers, and student support staff.

“Students who exhibit disruptive behaviors are often dealing with underlying mental or social health issues,” said EAB Senior Director of K-12 Research Ben Court. “Unfortunately, nearly 60 percent of teachers feel that pressure to boost lagging academic outcomes leaves them with insufficient time to address behavioral issues, and only 45 percent feel they are receiving adequate training to do so.”

EAB released a second report at the conference, “2023 Voice of the Superintendent” that highlights findings from a separate survey of 198 school district superintendents across 37 states.

Eighty-one percent of superintendents agree that student behavioral concerns are worse now than before the pandemic, with 35 percent saying the situation has gotten “significantly worse.” Ninety-two percent indicated that student mental health crises are worse than they were in 2019, with 57 percent saying the situation has gotten “significantly worse.”

Despite widespread agreement on the severity of behavioral and mental health challenges, 79 percent of superintendents say they lack sufficient staffing to fully address the student mental health crisis, and 74 percent point to staffing shortfalls as the biggest impediment to progress on managing student behavioral issues.

Superintendents cite insufficient budget as the second biggest challenge preventing them from adequately addressing student mental health crises. Almost half (46 percent) of superintendents believe they lack funding sufficient to achieve the most important objectives for their school districts. An equal number (46 percent) say they are likely to leave their job within two to three years.

“EAB’s survey of superintendents showed that while most feel more confident and energized than they did a year ago, persistent funding concerns and staffing headaches have led many district leaders to question whether making progress on their priorities is possible in today’s environment,” said Court. “The top priority for those who choose to stay and persevere must be to create a safe, supportive environment where teachers and students are able to do their best work.”

Additional insights and recommendations for how to mitigate these concerns will be shared in an upcoming series of superintendent roundtable discussions hosted by EAB.

This press release originally appeared online.

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Laura Ascione
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