For 29 years the insurance company MetLife has been surveying teachers across America to identify challenges involved in public school education. In the fall of 2012, one thousand K-12 public school teachers (with an average of 15 years of experience) and 500 principals participated in the survey. Data from the latest survey was published in February of this year. It may not come as a surprise that teachers are concerned about decreased budgets, meeting the needs of diverse learners, and engaging parents and the community in the education of children.
Here are some highlights from the report:
- A majority (56%) of teachers report that their school budgets have decreased in the past year. The 2011 survey found that three-quarters (76%) of teachers said that they work at schools where the budget had decreased during the past 12 months. Although fewer teachers reported budget decreases than in the previous year, school budgets do not appear to be recovering from the economic declines of recent years.
- Of course, less money means fewer resources. Fifty percent of surveyed teachers also identified the lack of available professional development opportunities as a significant concern, no doubt related to a decrease in funding for such opportunities. Data from the report also indicated that there seems to be a relationship between career satisfaction and professional development opportunities.
- Budget decreases were also associated with lower morale and greater stress among teachers. Forty-eight percent of teachers at schools where the budget has decreased within the past year were less likely than teachers at other schools to be very satisfied with their profession. In addition, they were more likely to report greater levels of job related stress.
Meeting the Individual Needs of Diverse Learners
- Seventy-eight percent of teachers identified the responsibility to address the individual needs of diverse learners as challenging or very challenging. When asked what would help them most in addressing this concern, majorities of teachers consistently said having other teachers available to help would be most beneficial for students.
- Maintaining an adequate number of teachers is, of course, related to budgetary considerations as well. Fifty-two percent of teachers cite this as being a significant challenge. This is especially the case for teachers in high-needs schools.
Teacher Job Satisfaction
- Only 39% of teachers surveyed reported being very satisfied with their jobs. This is the lowest level of teacher satisfaction in 25 years. In the history of the survey, there has only been one year that teacher satisfaction has been lower (in 1986, only 33% of surveyed teachers reported being very satisfied with their jobs).
- Over half of teachers reported feeling great stress several days a week. In 1985, (what was up with the 80’s?) only 36% of teachers reported such high levels of stress. Elementary school teachers reported experiencing stress more frequently than middle school or high school teachers (59% vs. 44% vs. 42%).
- Less satisfied teachers are more likely than very satisfied teachers to be in schools where budgets declined in the last 12 months.
- Less satisfied teachers are more likely to work in schools that had declines in professional development opportunities and in time for collaboration with other teachers in the last 12 months.
- Mid-career teachers (between 6 and 20 years of experience) are most likely to experience low levels of job satisfaction.
This may all seem dismal but keep in mind that the purpose of this report is to identify challenges that teachers experience in the public school system. Even so, if you are like me, results from this survey leave you wondering why teachers keep teaching.
The Polly Anna in me would love to see results from a survey that is designed to specifically identify positive aspects of what teachers and principals experience on the front lines. In the meantime, you can find the MetLife report here.