September 6, 2006, AUSTIN, TX–Sixth-grade Kealing Middle School teacher, LaNica Failey, glanced up at the wall clock and cringed. She’d been introducing a new math concept for the past 20 minutes, and it was clear that some of her students weren’t getting it. Now she had a choice to make: move on, and try to find time to work individually with the students who needed help, or keep at it and risk falling behind for the rest of the day. Failey knew that everything on her lesson plan was being covered on the statewide assessment tests at the end of the month, so she somehow needed to find time for it all.
“I thought teaching would be a nice alternative to high-stress jobs,” she noted. “But I feel rushed and pressured from the moment I wake up in the morning. I never knew that a classroom full of 11-year-olds could give me an ulcer.”
Failey is not alone. A new survey released this week by CompassLearning, a leading provider of K-12 education software, found that a vast majority of K-12 teachers feel significant levels of stress. These findings were consistent regardless of grade level, location of school, or amount of previous experience.
The survey, which was conducted for CompassLearning by the educational research organization Eduventures, collected 514 responses from K-12 teachers across the nation. While it may have been expected that low pay, decreased funding for supplies, or crumbling infrastructure would be the factors teachers most identified as stressors, what was most surprising about the survey results was how many of them related instead to testing and skills assessments put in place nationwide by the “No Child Left Behind” act.
The top three stressors identified by educators in the survey were “finding the time to teach everything I want/need to cover,” “providing students with individualized instruction given student-teacher ratios,” and “emphasis on high-stakes testing.” As administrators, politicians, and parents have focused their attention on school performance in recent years, teachers have been asked time and again to do more with less, to increase test scores, introduce new curricula, and absorb more students, without additional funding or staff.
Survey results came from urban, suburban, and rural schools throughout every region of the nation. Teaching experience of respondents varied from less than one year to more than 20 years, and they taught in every grade, from kindergarten through high school. Thirty-nine percent of the respondents reported that they were under “a lot of stress”; an additional 52% reported being under “a fair amount” of stress. Only 45 of the 514 teachers who responded reported that they were “not under much” stress.
“What we realized when we looked at these survey results is that teachers are rapidly approaching a crisis mode, and they need our help,” said Ann Henson, CompassLearning’s Vice President of Curriculum and Instruction. “We cannot keep piling standards and assessments on their backs alone, and expect them to carry the day without our support. When more than 90% of our educators are reporting significant levels of stress, we can tell that something is wrong with this picture.”
CompassLearning is poised to be the leading remedy to this epidemic of “edu-stress” by creating new software products that integrate the latest research into how our brains actually learn and retain information. The company, based in Austin, Texas, is leading the way with new techniques and products that will relieve teacher stress, and empower educators to teach, and students to learn, more effectively.
CompassLearning’s software products indicate clearly how the company will help to alleviate this stress. One is a “parallel learning” science product that will enable teachers in bi-lingual classrooms to teach simultaneously in English and Spanish, providing individualized instruction without having to keep either group of students waiting for the other. Other software products allow teachers to personalize and individualize their instruction, and promote “deep learning,” knowledge that sticks in the mind and creates a strong foundation for future learning.
“It’s quite clear that No Child Left Behind has created a new culture of accountability in our nation’s schools,” offered national education expert Melanie Pritchett, a senior policy advisor to CompassLearning. “What we need to do now is come up with new ideas, new products, an entirely new model that will keep this culture of accountability from crushing our hardworking teachers.”
For LaNica Failey, relief can’t come too soon. “I used to think that my biggest problem would be kids who fell behind, or who acted up in class,” she explained. “I never dreamed that our entire district’s funding structure would be relying on the test results of my classroom of 11-year-olds. That’s a lot of pressure.”
CompassLearning is a leading provider of K-12 education software that empowers educators to teach and students to learn more effectively. With more than 35 years of experience in the field of research-based education software, CompassLearning delivers standards-aligned K-12 curriculum, assessment and comprehensive data reporting that enables educators, parents and students to work together to reduce the stress of high-stakes testing. Since its founding, CompassLearning has been an industry leader in applying teaching and learning theory and research to the design of its products to ensure validity, reliability and effectiveness in promoting student achievement. Underscoring the company’s leadership is the alliance it established in 2005 with the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), a nonprofit provider of research-based assessment and analytical tools, offering the most advanced assessment, curriculum, data management systems and related products in the education arena. CompassLearning serves more than 11 million students in more than 20,000 schools nationwide. For more information about CompassLearning, visit www.compasslearning.com