NAIS Research: 2021 Teacher Satisfaction Survey

Executive Summary

National shifts in the job market coupled with reports of teacher burnout have renewed attention on teacher retention. NAIS surveyed teachers in independent schools to learn how they viewed their compensation and benefits and how schools might supplement these in ways that make teachers feel supported, able to succeed, and eager to stay.

When teachers were asked about compensation, parity with local independent school salaries was extremely important for 80% of the respondents, but just 21% were extremely satisfied with options at their school. Providing transparent comparisons with similar roles at other independent schools can help reduce confusion, and NAIS’s Data and Analysis for School Leadership (DASL) is a great place to start.

Though salary is important, it can be supplemented with other types of support. Employer-paid health insurance, dental insurance, and health care for dependents were extremely important for more than six out of 10 participants, but few reported high levels of satisfaction with these options at their schools.

Similarly, few were highly satisfied with their options for time off and flexible work—important tools for employee satisfaction and retention. Just 21% said they were highly satisfied with their access to time off, and only 14% were highly satisfied with the flexibility of their work schedule. Twelve percent felt highly satisfied with their ability to accomplish planning and administrative work remotely.

Affordability of housing, a reasonable commute, and support for faculty children were points of interest for a significant percentage of teachers, but few were satisfied with the options available. For example, 62% said that a reasonable commute time to work was extremely important to them, but just 10% were highly satisfied. Similarly, 59% of teachers said tuition remission for their children was important, but just 20% were highly satisfied with options at their school.
Ultimately, teachers want their work to have meaning. They want to work in schools with mission and values aligned to their own, where they are empowered to make an impact on students in the way they define it. 

Though independent school teachers frequently report that their school culture is in alignment with their vision as an educator, fewer feel satisfied with expectations for additional work. For example, more than two-thirds of teachers across enrollment sizes reported high levels of satisfaction with the alignment between school culture and their own teaching style, but about half (51%) or fewer felt that the requirements asked outside of their teaching role were fair and appropriate. This trend persisted across enrollment sizes. A similar gap emerged between the ability to impact students and feelings of support by school leaders—across school sizes, many teachers are highly satisfied with their ability to impact students but feel less supported by their leaders.

How might schools unpack the term “support,” and what does differentiated support look like in practice? For smaller schools in particular, this might include more support for teacher onboarding, mentoring and partnership between new and experienced teachers, and better communication from department heads. These are all measures with which teachers in schools of 300 students or fewer reported lower levels of satisfaction than colleagues in larger schools. For schools with enrollments of 500+, this might include more support for interactions with parents via a thorough audit of the progress a school is set up to deliver for students, and how this aligns with what parents expect.

In terms of career support, teachers seem to be more interested in support for their career advancement and need less training around classroom skills. More than eight in 10 felt confident they have the education and training needed to teach the agreed-upon curriculum, but fewer than six in 10 felt they had access to meaningful feedback for growth.

A clear path forward can contribute to employees’ sense of fulfillment, and schools can apply structures for meaningful feedback to fill the identified gap in teachers feeling supported by school leaders.


NAIS surveyed teachers at member schools to learn more about their workplace satisfaction. A total of 704 teachers from 304 schools responded to the survey, representing a 30% completion rate. The survey was open from May to August 2021.

This report was written by Carol Bernate, research analyst at NAIS. Totals may not equal 100% due to rounding.

Downloadable Content