For decades, the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher provided educational leaders, policymakers, and the public with deep and valuable insights into the industry and the teaching profession with comprehensive surveys of K-12 educators from across the country. That research was a critical benchmark for assessing the health of the K-12 environment and provided clarity about the pressing matters on the minds of the teachers who run classrooms across the nation. However, the survey was ended in 2013, and for years, no one picked up the mantel.
That is, however, until the Winston School of Education at Merrimack College stepped up and launched the Merrimack College Teacher Survey in 2022. Delivered through a partnership with Education Week, the annual study surveys approximately 1,200 K-12 educators from across the country. In its second year, the Merrimack College team partnered with the Belfort Group to identify strategies to disseminate this research widely. The aim was, and continues to be, to influence K-12 leaders and policymakers and to reinforce the Winston School’s positioning as a leader in teacher education and policy.
Our strategy began with a comprehensive dive into the research to ensure that we fully understood where the opportunities were and how we could best merchandise the information for maximum reach and impact. We found the data itself painted a relatively grim picture of the state of K-12 education, something we expected given that many districts and teachers are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the starkest points were:
- 35% of teachers were considering leaving the profession over the next two years
- 42% of teachers said that their own mental health and wellness struggles were affecting their work
- Less than half (46%) of teachers would be “fairly” or “very likely” to advise their younger selves to pursue teaching again
While there were some gains from the year earlier, suggesting a rebound as the social effects of the COVID pandemic begin to subside, the numbers are still stark and far worse for the industry than had ever been gleamed by the MCTS’s predecessor study.
Therefore, our strategy crystallized around a few key objectives:
- Highlight the troubling morale issues among K-12 educators with media
- Reinforce the credibility of Merrimack College as a thought leader in K-12 education
- Socialize the types of policies that could begin to address the issues raised by the study
In execution, the team crafted a compelling press release, conducted a significant amount of personalized and regionalized outreach to K-12 reporters, and crafted a policy-maker outreach plan for regional educational policymakers and elected officials on education committees and subcommittees.
The result of that work was a deluge of media coverage, both in the short-term, and also via a long trail of passive PR over the following months that continued to highlight the realities uncovered by the survey. In addition to shining a spotlight on the pressing teacher crisis, it also began to socialize some of the solutions proposed by the Winston School team, cementing the Merrimack College Winston School of Education as an influential national thought leader in the K-12 space, reinforcing their brand, and underpinning their mission to support educators.
The reach of our campaign was significant, and so were the results. The survey was cited by major national outlets like Fox News and Axios; industry verticals like District Administration and SHRM; and regional news outlets like Washington D.C.’s WTOP and the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. It served as a central part of much larger narratives, including in a multi-article piece, “The New Class” by Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters Cassidy Alexander and Josh Reyes, who followed Atlanta area teachers through their first year and chronicled their successes and their challenges. As a result of the partnership, EdWeek also covered the survey and shared insights about it extensively over several months, and it still underpins much of their writing.
In addition to pushing this research directly into reporters’ inboxes, and ultimately their stories, we also put it into the hands of relevant educational policy advocacy groups, unions, and other influencers in the space, who began to use this data in their own communications and policy documents to better inform their own strategies and objectives.