Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis won’t be surprised at the results of a new survey released today showing that teacher satisfaction is way down. According to the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, teacher satisfaction has decreased by 15 points from two years ago and is at the lowest level in more than two decades of the survey. (As the perfect companion piece, please read this essay by a teacher in training.)
Among the survey’s major findings:
•Teacher job satisfaction has dropped 15 points since 2009, from 59% who were very satisfied to 44% who are very satisfied, the lowest level in over 20 years.
• The percentage of teachers who say they are very or fairly likely to leave the profession has increased by 12 points since 2009, from 17% to 29%.
•The percentage of teachers who do not feel their job is secure has grown since 2006 from eight percent to 34%.
• Majorities of parents and teachers say that public school teachers are treated as professionals by the community (71% of parents, 77% of teachers), that public school teachers’ health insurance benefits are fair for the work they do (63% of parents, 67% of teachers), and that public school teachers’ retirement benefits are fair for the work they do (60% of parents, 61% of teachers).
•Slightly more than half (53%) of parents and two-thirds (65%) of teachers say that public school teachers’ salaries are not fair for the work they do.
•Teachers with lower job satisfaction are less likely than others to feel that their job is secure (56% vs. 75%) or that they are treated as a professional by the community (68% vs. 89%).
•Teachers with lower job satisfaction are more likely to be in schools that have had layoffs of teachers (49% vs. 37%) or other school staff (66% vs. 49%), or the reduction or elimination of arts or music programs (28% vs. 17%), after-school programs (34% vs. 23%), or health or social services (31% vs. 23%).
•Teachers with lower job satisfaction are more likely to report that in the last year they have seen increases in: average class size (70% vs. 53%), students and families needing health or social services (70% vs. 56%), students coming to school hungry (40% vs. 30%), students leaving to go to another school (22% vs. 12%), and students being bullied/harassed (17% vs. 10%).
“Often, we hear how important teachers are. But this survey tells us what teachers themselves are thinking, and it’s very sobering,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten in a statement. “Teachers are telling us they have the lowest level of job satisfaction in more than two decades and that a growing number are planning to leave the profession.”
“U.S. teachers are frustrated with unrelenting cuts in budgets, elimination of arts and after-school programs, larger class sizes, and accountability systems that over-rely on student test scores,” she said. “This should call into question the obsession with cutting funding for public education and health and family services children and parents rely on.
From the executive summary of the survey:
Teachers are less satisfied with their careers; in the past two years there has been a significant decline in teachers’ satisfaction with their profession. In one of the most dramatic findings of the report, teacher satisfaction has decreased by 15 points since the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher measured job satisfaction two years ago, now reaching the lowest level of job satisfaction seen in the survey series in more than two decades.
This decline in teacher satisfaction is coupled with large increases in the number of teachers who indicate that they are likely to leave teaching for another occupation and in the number who do not feel their jobs are secure.
Several factors distinguish teachers with high job satisfaction from those with lower satisfaction. Teachers with high job satisfaction are more likely to feel their jobs are secure and say they are treated as a professional by the community. They are also more likely to have adequate opportunities for professional development, time to collaborate with other teachers, more preparation and supports to engage parents effectively, and greater involvement of parents and their schools in coming together to improve the learning and success of students.
Overall, majorities of both parents and teachers say teachers are treated as professionals by the community and that teachers’ health insurance and retirement benefits are fair for the work they do. However, majorities of parents and teachers do not feel that teachers’ salaries are fair for the work they do.
The effects of the economic downturn are felt widely and deeply in education. More than three quarters of teachers have faced budget cuts in their schools in the last year. These budget reductions have been enacted across the full range of school types: urban, suburban and rural schools, as well as in schools with either low or high concentrations of low-income students, minority students and English language learner (ELL) students. Two-thirds of teachers report that their schools have had layoffs of teachers, parent/community liaisons or other staff in the last year.
Teachers in schools where layoffs of classroom teachers have occurred are more likely to have witnessed the reduction or elimination of programs and services in their schools. Overall, more than one-third of teachers experienced reductions or eliminations of programs in arts or music, foreign language, or physical education in the last year. Nearly three in ten teachers indicate that there have been reductions or eliminations of health or social services in their schools.
Beyond reductions in staffing, programs, and services, six in 10 teachers report that the average class size in their school has increased. One-third of teachers also indicate that educational technology and materials have not been kept up to date to meet student needs, while two in 10• report that school facilities have not been kept in clean or good condition.
At the same time teachers report a reduction in school budgets, programs, and services, students and their families report an increase in needs. A majority of teachers across schools of all demographic types reports that the number of students and families requiring health and social support services has increased in the past year. Economic fears are also on the minds of students and their parents. Two- thirds of students and nearly three-quarters of parents worry about their families not having enough money for the things they need. Majorities of students and parents also worry about the parents’ losing or not being able to find a job.
School budget cuts are associated with an additional negative impact. Four in 10 teachers and parents of students are pessimistic that levels of student achievement will increase in the next five years. Teachers and parents who report that their schools’ budgets have decreased are more likely to be pessimistic that the level of student achievement will improve than those in schools whose budgets have remained the same or increased.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog