Survey: Teacher morale at its lowest in decades

“We are fortunate that MetLife has raised this warning flag in time for the nation to respond. It’s time to try a different strategy—to go beyond factory-era carrots and sticks to invest in well-informed professional development and support. … Year after year, the survey has found that teachers with high job satisfaction are more likely to stay if they are treated as professionals by their community, have adequate opportunities for professional growth, and have time to collaborate with other teachers. Schools can translate these ideas into action by organizing teachers into collaborative teams that enable them to learn from and support each other as they design engaging projects that address common student learning challenges.”

Other survey findings

A significant majority of teachers (63 percent) report that the average class size in their school has increased in the past year, and one-third of teachers (34 percent) indicate that educational technology and materials have not been kept up to date to meet students’ needs. More than one third (36 percent) of teachers experienced reductions or eliminations of programs in arts or music, foreign language, or physical education in the past year.

School budget cuts appear to have generated an additional negative effect, the survey suggests: Teachers and parents of students in schools where budgets have decreased in the last 12 months are more likely to be pessimistic (46 percent of teachers; 52 percent of parents) that student achievement will be better in five years than are teachers and parents of students in schools where budgets have remained the same or increased (35 percent of teachers; 28 percent of parents).

In a bit of good news, teachers say they feel supported by their individual communities. Overall, the survey found that a majority of both teachers (77 percent) and parents (71 percent) agree that teachers are treated as professionals by the community, and that teachers’ health insurance (67 percent of teachers; 63 percent of parents) and retirement benefits (61 percent of teachers; 60 percent of parents) are fair for the work they do.

Parents report that teachers in schools with high parent engagement also perform better on a range of measures, including collaboration, responsiveness, sharing information, contacting parents about learning issues, providing guidance on helping students succeed, and being flexible to meet with parents at different times of the day.

And in another positive development, levels of engagement between parents and schools have seen marked improvement over past surveys. Two-thirds of students (64 percent) report that they talk about things that happen at school with their parents every day, compared to 40 percent who reported speaking with their parents this frequently in 1988, the first time the survey asked this question. There was also a threefold increase in the number of students who report that their parents visit their school at least once a month—up from 16 percent in 1988 to 46 percent today.

Virtually all teachers (91 percent) and eight in ten parents (80 percent) believe that their schools help all parents understand what they can do at home to support student success, and 83 percent of students agree that their teachers and parents work together to help them succeed.

More findings on teacher job satisfaction

Teachers with high job satisfaction are more likely than those with lower job satisfaction to have experienced adequate opportunities for professional development (86 percent vs. 72 percent).

Teachers with high job satisfaction are less likely than those with lower job satisfaction to have experienced decreased time to collaborate with other teachers (27 percent vs. 44 percent).

Teachers with high job satisfaction are more likely than those with lower job satisfaction to rate the following people as excellent or good in preparing and supporting them to engage parents effectively: the principal at their school (90 percent vs. 72 percent); other teachers at their school (91 percent vs. 85 percent); and parents at their school (73 percent vs. 55 percent).

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