Representatives Tim Ryan and Susan Davis Introduce the Teacher Health and Wellness Act | Congressman Tim Ryan
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Representatives Tim Ryan and Susan Davis Introduce the Teacher Health and Wellness Act

May 18, 2017
Press Release

Washington, DC – Representatives Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Susan Davis (D-CA) today introduced the Teacher Health and Wellness Act. This legislation provides support for teachers by creating a pilot study at the National Institute of Health aimed at reducing teacher stress, increasing teacher health and ultimately boosting student achievement.

High levels of stress are adversely affecting teachers’ health. Teachers with high levels of stress are less effective in raising student achievement than their healthier peers. According to a 2014 Gallup survey, 46 percent of teachers experience high daily stress during the school year. This percentage is tied for the highest rate of high daily stress among occupations. Stress affects the physical health of teachers which compromises teaching performance and negatively impacts student well-being. Elementary school teachers who have greater stress and show more symptoms of depression create classroom environments that are less conducive to learning.

“Before they can take care of our students, teachers must take care of themselves. Their important work can be mentally taxing, and having the tools available to manage these stresses is crucial to making sure our students are getting a first rate education,” said Rep. Ryan. “This legislation is a key component in elevating the teaching profession and making sure our educators have the support they need to help themselves, and our kids, succeed.”  

“I’m thrilled to join Congressman Tim Ryan to introduce this important legislation which will help us support educators and elevate the teaching profession,” said Rep. Davis. “There is no greater indicator of students’ success than the quality of their teachers, and we need to make sure that we reduce the stress and anxiety of teachers so that we can recruit and retain quality educators.”

Stress is contributing to the high turnover rate among teachers. This high turnover rate is estimated to cost over $7 billion per year. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “Basic research is needed on additional ways to reduce teacher stress and support teacher health and wellness.” The Teacher Health and Wellness Act provides this support by creating a pilot study at the National Institute of Health aimed at reducing teacher stress and increasing teacher retention and well-being by implementing and analyzing the results of the following programs such as workplace wellness programs that improve teacher health, attendance, and engagement, social emotional learning programs that help teachers improve student engagement in the classroom, and teacher stress management programs that improve teacher performance.

“To help all students achieve their potential, we need to retain America’s excellent teachers and recruit a generation of highly skilled new ones. To do this, reducing excessive stress in teaching is a must. This bill is a crucial and welcome step to tackle that.” Dan Brown, Co-Director, Educators Rising – a national network of more than 30,000 aspiring teachers.

“We appreciate that this legislation recognizes the challenging and essential job teachers do every day and that they deserve meaningful support to be their most effective. Learning Forward believes that the well-being of educators is a critical component of ensuring their professional growth and meeting the needs of their students.” Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward. 

“Anyone working in a child-serving profession experiences some degree of daily stress and research has shown that many educators do not take time out to care for themselves and de-pressurize. This leads to physical and mental health problems, burnout, and ultimately many teachers leave the profession prematurely. Teaching resilience, problem solving, and emotion-management skills can help decrease stress and increase performance in teachers, as well as their students.” Joan Duffell, Executive Director, Committee for Children.

“Building a caring, responsive classroom community is essential to students’ success and well-being. However, our report, ‘To Reach the Students, Teach the Teachers,’ showed that many teachers are not taught how to create such an environment, and therefore experience higher levels of stress and anxiety which negatively impacts their students. This bill would be a step toward understanding and actively putting into practice ways to help teachers utilize social and emotional learning to increase their own and their students’ well-being.” Roger Weissberg, Chief Knowledge Officer at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)

The Teacher Health and Wellness Act also supports:

(1)    Mentoring and induction programs during the school year and teacher pre-service that improve teacher well-being.

(2)    Organizational interventions such as principal training programs that reduce stress through supervisor/peer support and increasing opportunities for teachers to participate in professional learning communities, teacher leadership positions and decision-making regarding school interventions and management.

(3)    Teacher residency programs that provide mental health and psychological support.

(4)    Complementary health approaches, such as mindfulness meditation, that improve teacher performance.

(5)    School reorganization that creates the conditions to facilitate the transmission and sharing of knowledge among teachers.

(6)    Other innovative evidence-based approaches that reduce stress and increase well-being in the teaching profession, which may include increased compensation.

This legislation is supported by: The National Education Association; the American Federation of Teachers; the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE); Public Education and Business Coalition (PEBC); the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL); National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY); The New Teacher Project (TNTP); Committee for Children; the Healthy Schools Campaign; Educators Rising; Teaching Matters; Learning Forward.