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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Teaching as a Profession in Jeopardy

Politicians and the stock market may give the impression that we are recovering from the recession. Teachers won’t buy it. A survey completed last November by the health insurance and annuity company, MetLife, reveals that teacher job satisfaction is the lowest level in the last 20 years.* In just the last two years, the number of teachers who say they are likely to leave teaching has risen from 17% to 29%. You may recall from my last post that 50% of teachers will actually drop out within five years.

We can all think of legitimate reasons for this disenchantment with teaching. The survey documented that the bad economy was the main culprit. School budget cuts are a factor, particularly as they cause increased class size, unaffordability of access to updated instructional material, and reductions in school programs. 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.

Over a third of the teachers cite fear over job security. The last time this question was asked, in 2006, only 7% had job security worries.

Also important are inadequate opportunities for professional development, time to collaborate with other teachers and more preparation and support for engaging parents effectively. Teachers report increases in the needs of students and the families.

All of this is attributed to “trickle down” effects of the bad general economy. Some 76% of the teachers reported their school budgets have been cut. Nearly a third of the teachers indicated that there have been reductions or eliminations of health or social service programs in their schools in the past year. In addition, 64 percent of teachers report an increase in the number of students and families requiring health and social support services, and 35 percent say the number of students coming to school hungry has increased.

Teacher morale benefits from increasing parent involvement in educating their children. The good news is that teachers report increasing involvement by parents, no doubt because the public is gradually coming to accept the importance of education and that U.S. public education is in trouble.

*The survey was conducted by telephone among 1,001 public school teachers, and online among 1,086 parents and 947 students in October and November, 2011


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