The MetLife Survey of The American Teacher 2011

While in the UK OFSTASI’s Wilshaw spouts further drivel about declining literacy standards, across the pond in the US a very illuminating survey of teachers has attracted a lot of recent attention, not least because it shows just how dissatisfied teachers currently are.

The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Teachers, Parents and the Economy was conducted by Harris Interactive and is the twenty-eighth in a series sponsored annually by MetLife since 1984 to give voice to those closest to the classroom. This MetLife survey examines the views of teachers, parents and students about the teaching profession, parent and community engagement, and effects of the current economy on families and schools.

The survey is 130-pages long and so we will only present the juicy bits. However, even these snippets should (although predictably they won’t) make us all think about the focus of education policy both in the UK and US.

The survey reports the following:

Teachers are less satisfied with their careers.

1. Teacher job satisfaction has dropped 15 points since 2009, from 59% who were very satisfied to 44% who are very satisfied, the lowest level in over 20 years.

2. The percentage of teachers who say they are very or fairly likely to leave the profession has increased by 12 points since 2009, from 17% to 29%.

3. The percentage of teachers who do not feel their job is secure has grown since 2006 from eight percent to 34%.

4. Slightly more than half (53%) of parents and two-thirds (65%) of teachers say that public school teachers’ salaries are not fair for the work they do.

5. Teachers with lower job satisfaction are less likely than others to feel that their job is secure (56% vs. 75%) or that they are treated as a professional by the community (68% vs. 89%).

Increasing job dissatisfaction, a potential exodus out of the profession, feelings of job insecurity, poor pay and a lack of community respect do not a healthy teaching profession make.

Is it right however given this disillusionment among teachers (and we can imagine that the same sentiment is shared by their UK counterparts), that the out-dated and increasingly muddleheaded and disingenuous talk of raising standards, international competitiveness and general teacher-bashing that currently passes for intelligent comment is still occupying government ministers and bureaucrats of both countries?

To state the obvious: the problem is not low placings on meaningless league tables based on international comparisons that prove nothing but a sample of students scored such-and-such in standardised exams. Nor is the problem a lack of technical prowess in the classroom. No, the problem is that teachers are unhappy, and unhappy teachers means unhappy students and this means unhappy parents.

This ever-present and long-standing reality is not hard to see – unless you are Wilshaw or Gove, of course.

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