New survey: Teacher satisfaction falls to lowest level in two decades

apple (Medium)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

32 comments Add your comment


March 7th, 2012
12:47 am

So Maureen day after day , as you provide us with your ongoing daily diatribe with dreadful statistics and questionable reports and studies as to how the current public education system has failed us and our kids. Besides an obvious and what appears to be an unambiguous support for a preparation for a stage for a support of a school voucher payment system. A well known, popular Republican interest and answer to such issues. I would like to ask of you, where do you stand as a journalist, after reviewing such statistics and reports? Which avenue do you think we should take or look forward to improve such a failing process other than the obvious. Informed as you are, many of us would welcome an informed opinion as to what and where do we start to improve on the current system that has had many more past success stories despite its multiple failures. Mind you that the majority of the many Georgia residents that you pass to and from the office and those who pass you as you walk the halls and the many desks at the office of the AJC are successful graduates of that same local system. Bad as it is, you must admit, it has produced many of America’s current leaders and many more productive citizens Inquiring minds would love to hear your thoughtful opinion.

Dr. John Trotter

March 7th, 2012
1:12 am

By and large, teachers are no longer treated as professionals. The knowledge, judgment, and discretion of professionals are respected. Professionals are not snoopervised, but teachers are now snoopervised and dictated to. They are put in straight jackets and have to go by prescriptive curricula and teach within cookie cutter methodologies. Why would they be satisfied? They are the convenient scapegoats for all that is wrong with public education. Their power has been taken away when it comes to academics and student conduct in the classroom. When students come to class with no motivation to learn and actually refuse to learn and are determined to disrupt the class, the teacher is blamed for this and their careers are affected (via skewed and biased evaluations) because of the lack of effort of many of the students. All the teachers can do is teach the students; they can’t learn the students no more than a physician can heal their patients.

Dr. Craig Spinks/Georgians for Educational Excellence

March 7th, 2012
1:24 am


As you well-know, an overwhelming majority of our colleagues are quite willing to acquiesce in being bullied, “snoopervised,” dictated to, disrespected, having their classes disrupted et al. with only low-voiced whines to close associates or with anonymous postings on blogs as expressions of dissatisfaction. Too few have the courage to join you and MACE and fight for their professional dignity.

We teachers can’t begin to straighten things out until we stand up and stand shoulder-to-shoulder.

Beverly Fraud

March 7th, 2012
4:50 am

Don’t know the answer, just posing the question. If 80,000 teachers (or how ever many PAGE/GAE claim to have these days) joined an organization that unwaveringly supported teachers-advocated FOR discipline and AGAINST administrative retaliation, how much better MIGHT teaching conditions be in Georgia?

Maybe teachers need to look at this survey and ask themselves to what extent they are ACTIVE CO-CREATORS in their own misery?

No wonder Fled, fled. But he doesn’t have to ask HIMSELF that question these days LOL

NW GA Math/Science Teacher

March 7th, 2012
6:17 am

The problems are indeed myriad. There have certainly been failures on the part of teachers. Possibly, however, much of the blame could lie with expectations. What, precisely, do you want, Mr. Public? Do you want me to take your apathetic youth and make them all successful college-ready graduates? Do you want me to teach as many as I can as much as I can? Do you want me to try to make sure that 20-plus year administrators have as easy a time of it as possible? Those three options (three among many) are mutually exclusive. I would argue that the first is unattainable. The last I’m uninterested in (thus much of the survey dissatisfaction). The middle path – yeah, that’s what I want to do. BUT, I am actively blocked from it on a daily basis. You, Mr Public, demanded results in the form of EOCT success. Last year I had a 90% pass rate for my students on the Math 1 EOCT (No cheating and I do NOT have the “honors” kids in my school), so this year more and more stuff has been piled on, more prescriptive models have been foisted, and more administrative micro-management has reared its head. I have not been able to do my job this year. What do you want, Mr. Public?

Joy in Teaching

March 7th, 2012
7:13 am

@ Dr. Trotter

Is there any way possible you can send me your email addy? I have a question for you about a specific administrative issue.

V for Vendetta

March 7th, 2012
7:56 am


You make some excellent points. One of the fundamental problems with education right now is that the public and the government that (supposedly) represents it does not know what they want from teachers or from public schools. If I had to guess, I would say that they want babysitters and socialization specialists…but they are unwilling to accept the expectations and discipline that is handed out to their students. They want well trained, college material students…but they are unwilling to accept the standards and rigor associated with true college prep classes–to say nothing of honors or AP level classes. In short, they want success on all fronts…but they are unwilling to accept any of thte steps it takes to get there.

When I was young, I was taught that nothing is ever given to you; that you have to work hard and EARN the things you want in life. Hard work is the path to success, and even though everyone doesn’t start on the same level playing field, you can level the playing field later in life by obtaining a better education and pouring yourself into your goals and aspirations. But the bottom line is this: no one wants to work hard anymore.

Because hard work is just too dang hard.


March 7th, 2012
7:58 am

The educational ship will right itself when teachers are free to teach and run an innovative classroom, when admin stops being obsessively micromanaging, and students are once again held to a fair and disciplined standard. No more. No less.

Instead, we have people who have no idea about sound educational practice making decisions that further exacerbate the problems. It’s kind of like the inmates running the prison…

[...] think it is terrific and an ideal follow-up to the survey results I posted earlier today. Read them both and you will get a sense of what teachers are experiencing right now. By Anabel [...]


March 7th, 2012
8:06 am

Dirty classrooms , overcrowded classes, lack of respect from parents and administrators are some of the reasons teachers feel their environment has degraded. What people need to realize is that the children share the environment of the teacher. Give the teacher a poor environment and you place every one of his students in a poor environment.

The difference IMHO is that the teacher has a choice and can leave that poor environment, while most of his students cannot. The students are trapped in that environment, merely exchanging one teacher who exits for a other who comes in. This is the dirty little secret in education. Teacher attrition is very high in the worst environments and the worst environments occur in the poorest areas. Their parents protest the least and have the least money to augment the educational program. Until we “rightsize” our priorities and redirect money and respect back to the classroom, teacher morale will continue to erode.

[...] course teacher morale is lower than it has been in two decades – no surprise [...]

Atlanta Media Guy

March 7th, 2012
8:41 am

In DeKalb, teachers are threatened everyday by the “leaders”. Take one look at the videos that Ron Ramsey produced at DCSS and you can see there is no respect for the teachers in our system. We must take the politicians out of the equation if we really want change. Of course that will not happen, since so many are power hungry and once they get into leadership positions they take advantage of the very people who are tasked to make things right, our teachers.

Start paying the good teachers, talk to the kids who have shown good results with the teachers and ask them how their teacher helped? There are always bad kids who will lie to get a teacher in trouble, but if we ask the kids who are successful, like the young man from Cross Keys, maybe they can put a finger an what’s exactly happening in our class rooms.

I’m amazed at what the science teachers have to do in DCSS, since most of their money is spent at one facility, the Fernbank Science Center. That said, my middle schooler loves his science teacher, she engages with the kids and makes their learning experience FUN! Let’s take the politics out of the school system. People like Ron Ramsey, have no business being employed by DCSS, he has other responsibilities that takes him away from his DCSS mission and the only way he can lead is by using idle threats. How can Ramsey do his job at DCSS when he is working under the Gold Dome for three to four months every year? I understand others have real jobs too, but when it comes to ethics at a school system I would prefer having a full timer on board.

I personally think a BILLION dollars is enough to run a system, the size of DeKalb’s, for a year. if our leaders are unable to balance their budgets and be honest about it then I say let’s show them the door and find someone capable of leading.


March 7th, 2012
11:12 am

@ Dr. Craig Spinks, 1:24 am, and Beverly Fraud, 4:50 am.

Let me ask you this honest question (before Ole Guy sounds his bugle call to pusillanimous teachers): wouldn’t your suggestions require the practical step first of amending our right-to-work state constitution? That’s not likely to happen, given that the business interests in this state oppose unions with all they have. So might there be a chance of getting an amendment passed that EXEMPTS educators in some way from the constitutional prohibitions against unionizing? Education is not the same thing as a business. (No wisecracks, please.)

Just asking as an outsider.

Beverly Fraud

March 7th, 2012
11:25 am

Let me ask you this honest question (before Ole Guy sounds his bugle call to pusillanimous teachers): wouldn’t your suggestions require the practical step first of amending our right-to-work state constitution?

Well Prof I’m talking more about the “mindset” than anything. And when teachers, in their current atmosphere of administrative RETALIATION, make organizations that represent ADMINISTRATORS their organization of choice, it makes about as much sense as chickens going to Truett Cathy and asking him to advocate for the their collective “career advancement” opportunities.

[...] think it is terrific and an ideal follow-up to the survey results I posted earlier today. Read them both and you will get a sense of what teachers are experiencing right [...]

Job Satisfaction

March 7th, 2012
12:18 pm

It is really hurtful and insensitve in these economic times for teachers to be complaining about their careers. “Teachers are less satisfied with their careers.”
Teachers have careers with real benefits and pensions. At least 10% of this entire country is without work. Most are out of work through no fault of their own.
I’ll be any of them would be happy to have a career right now, especially one with a steady income and good benefits.
It’s blogs like these and comments like the whiner on the other blog that give government employees a bad reputation.
If you have a job, be thankful for it. If you have a stead income, rejoice. If you have a career with a steady income and benefits, get down on your knees and thank whatever God you worship because you are one fortunate American.

Ron F.

March 7th, 2012
12:32 pm

44% very satisfied and 29% thinking about leaving. Oh but we need schools to be graded A-F and charter schools. Hopefully parents will be able to “volunteer” and teach the classes!

Parent Teacher

March 7th, 2012
1:49 pm

Your wrong GM. Employment rate is well below 10% and approching 8%. You always miss the point. It is a survey. People tend to do a better job and work harder when they are satisfied, feel needed and are generally happy. This survey shows, yet again, the complex issue of education and all the variables that play into educating children. Your answer is always to point the finger at teachers first. Once again you are wrong on many levels.


March 7th, 2012
3:04 pm

@Parent Teacher. Don’t you get it yet? GM loves to cyberbait teachers on here.

Another Math Teacher

March 7th, 2012
5:25 pm

Ignore the Good Mother troll.


March 7th, 2012
5:40 pm

•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.

I am surprised that 44% are very satisfied! I was expecting a figure of 30%-25%, which was my highest estimate!

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

March 7th, 2012
6:20 pm

@GM “It is really hurtful and insensitve in these economic times for teachers to be complaining about their careers. ”

I will complain as much as I please, thank you very much. I complain, not so much for myself, but because the changes I see happening in education are affecting my ability to DO MY JOB and EDUCATE my students to the best of my ability. I WILL always advocate for what is best for my students, and I would think any parent would appreciate teachers who fight for the benefit of their students.

southside teacher

March 7th, 2012
7:07 pm

Wow, I can’t imagine why job satisfaction has declined. Wonder if it has anything to do with the lousy working conditions? And please remember, my working conditions are your children’s learning conditions.

V for Vendetta

March 7th, 2012
7:07 pm

“It is really hurtful and insensitve in these economic times for teachers to be complaining about their careers.”


Well if that just doesn’t sum up what’s wrong with America I don’t know what does. Better not complain; you might hurt someone’s feelings.

Proud Teacher

March 7th, 2012
7:57 pm

Job Satisfaction, who taught you to read and write? Are the teachers who are good teachers complaining about their jobs or not being allowed to do their jobs? You need to take off your visors and listen to what the teachers are saying: We are not allowed to teach the children in front of us because we are being forced to canned teaching that has been created by people who are not teachers. This is inappropriate.

Dr. Craig Spinks/Georgians for Educational Excellence

March 8th, 2012
7:44 am

(S)outhside teacher,

Excellent points!

Have in-the-works something you and your fellow teaching professionals, those currently practicing as well as those who are retired, should find interesting and, hopefully, inspirational.

Dr. Craig Spinks/Georgians for Educational Excellence

March 8th, 2012
7:55 am


This is meant as a serious comment not as a shameless plug for MACE. But John Trotter’s organization’s leadership seems to have the combination of intellect, moxey and salesmanship required to begin the process of bringing us teachers together.

Unfortunaely, I don’t know enough about the GA constitution to comment intelligently about what it allows. However, MACE seems to be pretty effective while operating under any constraints against employees’ organizing for professional purposes imposed by our state’s constitution.

By the way, Doc, a UGA doctoral grad, is also a graduate of The Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer.

Dr. Craig Spinks/Georgians for Educational Excellence

March 8th, 2012
7:56 am

OOPS: unfortunately, I don’t type well.


March 8th, 2012
8:03 am

It includes attitudes like yours that highlight WHY teachers feel this way.

You think that teachers should be happy with whatever pitiful working conditions there may be because others may suffer? Are you kidding me?

Who are you? Who are you to judge? Why do you feel qualified to tell teachers that we should somehow feel lucky or fortunate?

You routinely post on these education blogs negative comments about teachers. Have you ever even been in the profession at all? ….Let me guess – you feel qualified because you have been a student. LOL!


March 8th, 2012
10:17 am

@ Dr. Craig Spinks. Please see a dialogue on the same subject of teachers’ unions in the blog centered around the letter by a present Education graduate student, with Dr. John Trotter chiming in.

I simply Googled for Georgia’s Constitution, and found the relevant section…as well as quite a bit of information on the “right-to-work” states. It seems to me that there ought to be some way that an official teachers’ union could be formed here by observing the letter of the law only, which relates to methods of collecting dues, and now picketing since the Senate bill just passed relating to that. But that’s not all there is to unions!

I simply wish that there were some way that the various teachers’ organizations that now exist could join forces for the greater good… become a genuine branch of NEA with collective bargaining powers. Maybe that could be the one good legacy of the cheating scandal that has unfolded for APS, and is still unfolding for other school systems in the state. And I do have faith that some administrators are horrified by that scandal too…that it is not just a “them” and “us” mentality.

Dr. Craig Spinks/Georgians for Educational Excellence

March 9th, 2012
11:16 am


My e-mail address is:

[...] by Kevin G. Weiner who is an Education Professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. See also this story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on this [...]