February 22, 2013

Teacher job satisfaction survey misses most important issue

The Atlantic reports on a teacher satisfaction survey done by the MetLife Foundation. It's titled "Teacher Job Satisfaction Hits 25-Year Low." Unfortunately, it asks the wrong questions and/or glosses over one of the main culprits for this: student behavior. Consider the article:

Only 39 percent of teachers described themselves as very satisfied with their jobs on the latest survey. That's a 23-percentage point plummet since 2008, and a drop of five percentage points just over the past year. Factors contributing to lower job satisfaction included working in schools where the budgets, opportunities for professional development, and time for collaboration with colleagues have all been sent to the chopping block.

Stress levels are also up, with half of all teachers describing themselves as under great stress several days per week, compared with a third of teachers in 1985.

No mention of deteriorating student behavior and increased student disrespect, cited by teachers as their number one difficulty. Why is that? Is it because it is just too politically incorrect to say ... let alone write about? Consider:

So what's the solution? The way to get more effective teachers into higher-poverty schools "is making those schools places good teachers want to go and stay," [the Education Trust's Sarah] Almy told me. "Some of the reasons why teachers are dissatisfied (on the survey) relate to opportunities for leadership and collaboration -- things we know are really important, and things that high-poverty and low-performing schools can and should be addressing."

Really? The way to retain good teachers in high-poverty schools is to provide "opportunities for leadership and collaboration?" Are you kidding me?? This is why this survey is laughable. Even substantial monetary incentives alone aren't sufficient to keep [good] teachers in (or attract good teachers to) high-needs schools, which are bastions of discipline problems. And as the Center for Teaching Quality notes,

The Massachusetts experience illustrates Richard Ingersoll's analysis of national teacher survey data. He found that teachers who leave because of job dissatisfaction do so not only because of low salaries, but also as a result of poor support from school administrators, lack of student motivation, little teacher influence over decision-making, and student discipline problems.

The MetLife survey does touch upon a current hot topic -- student testing and correlated teacher accountability -- and indeed in Delaware this is a continued concern among educators. No doubt that the increased workload associated with the additional record-keeping, [many useless "data"] meetings, and test administration have played a role in teacher dissatisfaction ... especially since the manner in which the state hauled out its testing and accountability scheme was prodigiously head-scratching. If "professionals" like those at the state education department did the job they did with DPAS II, one can only imagine how the upcoming Common Core State Standards will be utilized. My guess is that The Atlantic's story is only the beginning.

Posted by Felix at February 22, 2013 04:53 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

The way to retain good teachers in high-poverty schools is to provide "opportunities for leadership and collaboration?"

It's especially ridiculous because, unless school leadership/management is deeply entrenched to the detriment of everyone, speedy advancement is asy in a high turnover environment. Somebody has to move up into those empty positions. All you have to do is say "yes I'll do that."

Posted by: Jeff the Baptist at February 23, 2013 08:27 PM

Thanks for a thought-provoking commentary. I share your interest in and concern about student responsibility for their own learning, and the influence of discipline, motivation, etc. Did you see the MetLife survey results a couple of years ago, the report called "Collaborating for Student Success"? I found it interesting with specifics on some of those issues.


Posted by: paul at March 4, 2013 09:12 AM

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