April 2013 Issue
March 27, 2013

MetLife survey of teachers ought to be a wake-up call

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United

Feeling unappreciated? You're certainly not alone, according to the newest MetLife Survey of the American Teacher. Teacher job satisfaction has plummeted to its lowest level in 25 years — from 62 percent in 2008 to 39 percent in 2012.

"Teachers desperately want to do a good job, but feel weighted down by shrinking school budgets, few professional development opportunities and little time for teacher collaboration," said NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi. "The union has been out front fighting for these very issues."

According to the national survey, teacher stress levels have sharply increased, with half of teachers reporting they feel like they are under great stress several days per week, as opposed to one-third in 1985.

Both teachers and principals expressed concern about substantial challenges in high-poverty schools, where it is difficult to attract and retain effective teachers and to engage parents and the community.

The survey results add to the calls for wraparound services and community schools to address children's unmet academic, health care and other needs that affect student achievement.

"When teacher dissatisfaction is at a 25-year high, school leaders have to stop ignoring the red flags and start listening to and working with teachers to figure out what they and their students need to succeed," said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

"Lawmakers must ask themselves: 'How much longer can our schools continue to be drastically underfunded and understaffed without significant damage to the quality of the education our students are receiving?'" said National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel. "Classrooms are already crammed with students; programs and services are being cut; and teachers are entering pink slip season — all while further budget cuts loom as a result of fiscal cliff inaction."

Another huge problem: Teachers are not receiving the information and guidance they need to implement the Common Core State Standards. "The new standards are a potential game-changer for students, but teachers are not getting the support they need," Weingarten said.

If these numbers are going to turn around, teachers' sense of autonomy must be raised and opportunities must be offered to grow within the teaching profession, union leaders said.

This year's poll was conducted in late 2012 via in-depth telephone surveys with about 1,000 teachers and 500 principals in K-12 public schools. To see the entire survey, go to www.metlife.com/teachersurvey.