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Teacher morale lowest in 20 years

The 28th annual survey of teacher attitudes commissioned by MetLife and conducted by Harris Interactive found that morale in public schools plummeted to its lowest levels in decades. The report found that teachers' satisfaction with their jobs is down by 15% since the onset of the recession while parent engagement is on the rise.

Teacher job satisfaction fell from 59% to 44% between 2009 and 2012. Even more telling, the rapid shift is coupled with a large increase in the number of teachers indicating that they are likely to leave teaching for another occupation-up from 17% in 2009 to 29% today.

Teachers are also more than four times as likely now than they were five years ago to say that they do not feel their job is secure (34% today vs. 8% in 2006). In addition, 53% of parents and 65% of teachers say that teachers' salaries are not fair for the work they do.

The silver lining on this cloud of gloom is that teachers are supported by their communities. Overall, the survey found that a majority of both teachers (77%) and parents (71%) agree that teachers are treated as professionals by the community, and that teachers' health insurance (67% of teachers; 63% of parents) and retirement (61% of teachers; 60% of parents) benefits are fair for the work they do.

The MetLife analysis concludes the ripple effect from the economic downturn is a factor in this declining satisfaction and increasing insecurity. Layoffs of teachers, staff and parent/community liaisons occurred last year in the schools of two-thirds (66%) of teachers and three-quarters (76%) of teachers have experienced budget cuts in their schools in the last 12 months.

Teachers say there have been cuts to school budgets, programs, and services, while at the same time reporting that students and their families are demonstrating increased needs:

  • 28% indicate that there have been reductions or eliminations of health or social service programs in their schools in the past year;
  • 64% of teachers report an increase in the number of students and families requiring health and social support services;
  • 35% say the number of students coming to school hungry has increased;
  • 63% report that the average class size in their school increased;
  • 34% indicate that educational technology and materials have not been kept up to date to meet student needs at their schools; and,
  • 36% experienced reductions or eliminations of programs in arts or music, foreign language, or physical education in the past year.

The survey found that teachers with higher job satisfaction are more likely to have experienced adequate opportunities for professional development, time to collaborate with other teachers and more preparation and support for engaging parents effectively.

They are also likelier to report greater involvement of parents and their schools in coming together to improve the learning and success of students.


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