According to results released last month from the annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, although 82 percent of American teachers are either somewhat satisfied or very satisfied with their career, teacher dissatisfaction is the highest it has been in 25 years.
Taken from the surveys of 1,000 K-12 teachers and 500 principals, the report concluded that principals’ satisfaction decreased nine percentage points and teachers’ satisfaction by 23 percentage points since 2008. A majority of teachers reported feeling under great stress at least several days a week, a significant increase since last measured in 1985.
This year’s survey, themed “Challenges for School Leadership,” also asked teachers and principals about their greatest challenges, including in respect to budget issues, community involvement, the Common Core, and professional development.
“Among responsibilities that school leaders face, those that teachers and principals identify as most challenging result from conditions that originate beyond school doors,” they found.
The report focused on eight key findings:
- Principals take responsibility for leadership of their schools.
Nine in 10 principals (89 percent) said that ultimately a principal should be held accountable for everything that happens to the children in a school. Teachers also held the principals responsible for everything (74 percent), more so today than a quarter of a century ago.
- The job of a principal is becoming more complex and stressful.
Principals reported higher levels of stress and complexity of the job compared with five years ago. Seventy-five percent of principals felt that the job has become too complex, and half report feeling under great stress several days a week or more.
Although most principals reported having a great deal of control in hiring teachers and making decisions about teachers’ schedules, only about four in 10 principals said that they had a great deal of control over curriculum and instruction, and making decisions about removing teachers. Principals said they had the least control in making decision about school finances.
- Teachers take leadership in schools and think principals are doing a good job.
Although only about one in 10 teachers reported wanting to become school principals, half were interested in hybrid, part-time classroom teaching combined with other roles in their school or district.
The survey found that half of teachers already undertook formal leadership roles such as department chair, instructional resource, teacher mentor, or leadership team member. These teachers were more likely than others to feel that an effective principal should be able to develop a strong teaching capacity across a school, share leadership with teachers and other staff, and evaluation teachers using multiple measures.
Eighty-five percent of teachers rated the job their principal was doing as excellent or pretty good.
- The biggest challenges leaders face are beyond the capacity of schools alone to address.
More than half of teachers and principals reported that their school’s budget had decreased in the last 12 months. Eighty-six percent of teachers and 78 percent of principals indicated that it was challenging or very challenging for school leaders to manage budgets and resources to meet school needs. More than seven in 10 educators identified addressing the individual needs of diverse learners and engaging parents and the community in improving education for students as challenging or very challenging for their school leaders.
- Principals and teachers have similar views on academic challenges, but diverge somewhat on their priorities for leadership.
Although principals and teachers generally gave each other high marks, they disagreed somewhat on the skills and experiences needed to be a school leader. While principals placed the highest importance on being able to use student performance data to help improve instruction, teachers said it was most important for a principal to have had experience as a classroom teacher.
- Teacher satisfaction continues to decline.
According to the survey, teacher satisfaction declined by 23 percentage points since 2008. Half of teachers reported feeling under great stress several days a week – a 15 percent increase since 1985. Less-satisfied teachers were more likely to be in schools where budgets had declined in the last 12 months, and where maintaining an adequate supply of effective teachers and creating and maintaining an academically rigorous learning environment was identified as very challenging or challenging for the school leaders. Furthermore, teachers who were located in schools that had declines in professional development and time for collaboration with other teachers in the last 12 months were more likely to be less satisfied. However, nearly all teachers (97 percent) gave high rankings to the other teachers in their school.
- Challenges cited by educators are greater in high-needs schools.
Principals and teachers with low job satisfaction and higher levels of stress were more likely to work in high-needs schools, and greater proportions of teachers and principals in high-needs schools reported that maintaining an adequate supply of effective teachers, and engaging parents and the community presented challenges. Teachers and principals in schools with more than two-thirds low-income students were less likely to give their teachers an excellent rating than in schools with one-third or fewer low-income students.
- Although educators are confident about implementing the Common Core, they are less so about its potential for increasing student success.
Surveys found that teachers and principals had more confidence that teachers could teach the Common Core than they did that the Common Core would benefit students. Virtually all teachers and principals reported to be knowledgeable about the Common Core and to express confidence in the abilities of teachers in their school to teach according to the new standards. Most principals and a majority of teachers considered implementation of the Common Core a challenge for their school, and a majority of teachers and nearly half of school principals reported that teachers are already using the Common Core a great deal in their teaching. Comparatively fewer educators, however, were confident that the Common Core would improve student achievement and better-prepare students for college and the workforce.
However, among educators who were more knowledgeable of the Common Core and in schools where teachers reported already using the standards, there was a greater level of confidence that the Common Core standards would improve student achievement. As schools move to implement the Common Core, the report found, school leaders are striving to meet the significant challenges of educating all students at higher levels while continuing to balance limited resources.
The good news is that although satisfaction for teachers may be down compared with data from previous years, 8 in 10 teachers still feel satisfied with their jobs – and after years of budget cuts and policy changes. According to Real Clear Politics, the reason is obvious – teaching is amazing and meaningful work:
For starters, you get to work with kids. If that’s not enough, you also are not stuck behind a desk, and you’re also doing some of the most meaningful work one can do.