I doubt this headline will surprise too many teachers: Forty Percent of America’s K-12 Teachers Appear Disheartened
The Oct. 21 Education Week will publish research showing that two out of five American K-12 teachers appear disheartened and disappointed about their jobs. The research was collected by Public Agenda, a New York City-based research organization, and Learning Point Associates, a Chicago-based education research and consulting organization. The findings are part of a nationwide study, “Teaching for a Living: How Teachers See the Profession Today.”
Teachers fall into three broad categories which researchers designated the “Disheartened,” the “Contented” and the “Idealists.”
According to the release:
Disheartened teachers account for 40 percent of those surveyed and are twice as likely as other teachers to strongly agree with the view that teaching is “so demanding, it’s a wonder that more people don’t burn out.” More than half teach in low-income schools and 61 percent cite lack of support from administrators as a major drawback to teaching.
Contented teachers make up 37 percent of teachers and are more likely to say that their schools are “orderly, safe, and respectful.” About two-thirds of this group teaches in middle-income or affluent schools, and the majority holds a graduate degree. Sixty-three percent strongly agree with the statement that “teaching is exactly what I wanted,” which is supported by the fact that 82 percent have been teaching for more than 10 years.
Idealist teachers make up 23 percent of teachers surveyed and are more likely to believe that “good teachers can lead all students to learn, even those from poor families or who have uninvolved parents.” More than half are 32 years old or younger and teach in elementary schools, and 36 percent say that, although they intend to stay in education, they plan to leave classroom teaching in the future for other jobs in education. (Speaking of idealists, here is a good NYT story on a death penalty lawyer who is now a middle school teacher in Atlanta.)
“Teaching for a Living: How Teachers See the Profession Today” is based on a representative survey of 890 teachers. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percent. The work was underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Joyce Foundation.
My only response to this study comes out a conversation I had over the weekend with three people in construction-related fields. Each had lost their jobs and been looking for six months or more without even an interview. They were unsympathetic to employed folks complaining about conditions on their jobs. Their response to the rest of us was, “Be glad you have a job.” I would bet that “disheartened” now describes a good portion of the U.S. workforce.