Gallup report: American teachers stressed and it may be affecting students

10 Apr

Melanie Smollin has an excellent post at Take Part, Five Reasons Why Teacher Turnover Is On The Rise:

With approximately 1.6 million teachers set to retire in the next decade, replenishing America’s teaching force should be a top priority. But filling classrooms with new teachers is only half the battle. Retaining them is equally important.
Numerous studies show that teachers perform best after being in the classroom for at least five years. According to a McKinsey study, 14 percent of American teachers leave after only one year, and 46 percent quit before their fifth year. In countries with the highest results on international tests, teacher turnover rates are much lower—around 3 percent.
This constant cycling in and out of new teachers is a costly phenomena. Students miss being taught by experienced educators, and schools and districts nationwide spend about $2.2 billion per year recruiting and training replacements.
Why are so many new teachers fleeing the profession after so few years in the classroom? Here are the top five reasons teacher turnover is an ongoing challenge:
5. BURNOUT: A recent U.C. Berkeley study of Los Angeles charter schools found unusually high rates of teacher turnover. At the 163 charter schools studied, teacher turnover hovered around 40 percent, compared to 15 percent at traditional public schools.
Since demands on charter school educators are seemingly boundless, including extended hours, researchers theorized, burnout is a viable explanation for the teacher exodus. “We have seen earlier results showing that working conditions are tough and challenging in charter schools,” explained U.C. Berkeley’s Bruce Fuller. “Charter teachers wear many hats and have many duties and are teaching urban kids, challenging urban kids, but we were surprised by the magnitude of this effect.”
4.THREAT OF LAYOFFS: In response to annual budget shortfalls, districts nationwide have sent pink slips to tens of thousands of teachers each spring for the past four years. In 2011, California sent out 30,000….
3. LOW WAGES: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently said that teachers should earn between $60,000 and $150,000 per year. That’s a far cry from the current national average starting salary for teachers, which is $35,139….
2. TESTING PRESSURE: Since the No Child Left Behind Act was introduced in 2001, standardized test scores in math and reading have become the most important accountability measure used to evaluate schools.
Studies show that pressure to raise student test scores causes teachers to experience more stress and less job satisfaction. Many educators resent narrowing curriculum and stifling creativity in favor of teaching to the test.
On the National Center for Education Information’s “Profile of Teachers in the U.S. 2011,” the majority of comments submitted by survey respondents were “expressions of strong opposition to the current emphasis on student testing.”
As states increasingly rely on standardized test scores to evaluate individual educators, determine teacher pay and make lay-off decisions, testing pressure will only increase.
1. POOR WORKING CONDITIONS: When the Gates foundation polled 40,000 teachers about job satisfaction, the majority agreed that supportive leadership, time for collaboration, access to high quality curriculum and resources, clean and safe buildings, and relevant professional development were even more important than higher salaries.
But working conditions in many public schools remain far from this ideal—especially for beginning teachers, who are most likely to be assigned to the highest-need schools. Despite the added challenges they face, these teachers are often given few resources and little professional support.

Since many teachers will be leaving the profession in the next few years, the question is what effect teacher departures have on students and are there traits of teachers who choose to remain in the classroom which should be studied.

Rebecca Klein of Huffington Post reported in the article, American Teachers Feel Really Stressed, And It’s Probably Affecting Students:

American teachers feel stressed out and insignificant, and it may be impacting students’ educations.
Gallup’s State Of America’s Schools Report, released Wednesday, says nearly 70 percent of K – 12 teachers surveyed in a 2012 poll do not feel engaged in their work. The study said they are likely to spread their negative attitudes to co-workers and devote minimal discretionary effort to their jobs.
At the same time, nearly half of teachers reported feeling daily stress. When compared to 12 other occupational groups, teachers were least likely to report feeling like their “opinions seem to count” at work. The survey also found, however, that teachers tend to be satisfied with their lives overall.
While Gallup notes that most American workers — and not just teachers — report high levels of disengagement from their jobs, the attitudes of teachers have a direct and tangible impact on the achievement of students.
“The problem is that when teachers are not fully engaged in their work, their students pay the price every day,” says the report. “Disengaged teachers are less likely to bring the energy, insights, and resilience that effective teaching requires to the classroom. They are less likely to build the kind of positive, caring relationships with their students that form the emotional core of the learning process “
The report also surveyed 600,000 students in grades five through 12 on their feelings of hope, engagement and well-being — three factors the report says can affect a student’s success in school. Forty-five percent of these students reported feeling “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” from school, with rates of disengagement increasing by grade level. The report also says teachers have the biggest influence on student engagement levels. For example, students who reported having “at least one teacher who makes me excited about my future” and feeling that their school was “committed to building the strengths of each student” were 30 times more likely to be engaged at school.
The report points to “professionalizing” the occupation of education, as has been done in Finland, to improve the quality and morale of teachers. In Finland, action was taken decades ago to “move teacher preparation from teachers’ colleges into more rigorous university programs, thereby helping professionalize the occupation and making it more attractive to talented, ambitious young people.” Since that time, Finland has boasted top scores on international assessments and been lauded for having the “best education system in the world.”
“More rigorous hiring standards need to be accompanied by improved working conditions, greater autonomy, and professional development opportunities that provide career momentum. Otherwise, U.S. schools will continue to struggle to find enough applicants with the talent to be great teachers,” says the report.
Teachers’ and students’ lack of engagement with school seems to have filtered down to the public’s perception of American education at large. According to a previous Gallup poll cited in the report, just 17 percent of Americans think high school graduates are ready for work, and just 29 percent think they are ready for college. Indeed, on the latest set of international exams produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, American scores remained stagnant and mid-pack compared to foreign peers….

Allie Bidwell further reports in the U.S. News article, Most Teachers Are Not Engaged in Their Jobs, Gallup Finds:

On two points, teachers were the least likely of any profession surveyed on workforce engagement to respond positively: whether they feel their opinions at work count, and whether their supervisor creates an “open and trusting environment.”
“That’s a really big eye-opener,” says Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education. “So there’s something about the open, trusting environment that isn’t working in schools and that they don’t believe their opinions count. That is definitely weighing down the potential of making them more engaged in their workplace.”
Teacher engagement appears to significantly drop off within the early years of teaching. According to the report, teachers with less than a year on the job are most likely to be engaged, when 35 percent were enthusiastic about and committed to their jobs. The numbers continue to slip to a low of 28 percent for those with between three and five years of teaching experience.
Overall, the fact that so many teachers are not engaged in their jobs was surprising, Busteed says, because teachers generally reported having a better level of well-being than other professions. Aside from reporting higher levels of stress, Busteed says teachers have a “high mission purpose, they laugh more, they smile more” and they have “more positive emotions than most people in their work.” In fact, teachers scored the second highest of 14 professions on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, just after physicians….

Here is the press release from Gallup:

Monday, April 7, 2014
This Week on The “State of Education” Series
By Art Swift, Gallup Managing Editor

The way we evaluate whether a student receives “a proper education” continues to evolve. While students have more ways to receive an education, especially through online learning, education leaders everywhere are now asking different, more pointed questions about the state of education and how to make it more effective. Namely, is the student’s interest level at school — how “engaged” he or she is — as important, or even more important, than grades and standardized test scores? How accountable should teachers be for their own performance? Currently the U.S. is involved in a debate over “Common Core,” a set of academic standards that students will need to know by the end of a given school year. Are these standards helpful or a hindrance to a student receiving a quality education?

This week, will reveal data and insights that will help answer these questions in “The State of Education” series.

The topics we will be covering in this series include:
• Americans’ views of higher education and whether it needs to change (Monday)
• Americans’ confidence in online institutions (Tuesday)
• Perceptions of the quality of public education in grades K through 12, by state (Wednesday)
• Statewide perceptions of U.S. public schools’ ability to prepare students for success in the workplace (Wednesday)
• How the education level of a parent plays a major role in their child’s education in sub-Saharan Africa (Wednesday)
• Whether teachers in one’s local area are respected or not, by state (Thursday)
• Students’ opinions on how ready for workplace success they are (Friday, in Gallup Business Journal)
• Whether the “Common Core” — requiring U.S. schools to adopt the same curriculum — is effective (Friday)
We look forward to you joining us for “The State of Education.” To get these stories as soon as they publish, sign up for Gallup News alerts.

No matter where a teacher is in their career lifecycle, they will be confronting the issues of elimination of teacher tenure and more rigorous teacher evaluation. Increasingly, one component of teacher evaluation will focus on whether students are showing academic achievement gains. The point of contention, which may provoke disagreement between the evaluator and the teacher is how student achievement is measured.
In times of recession, all jobs become more difficult to find and often job seekers do not have the luxury of finding the perfect job. New teachers may find jobs in schools often considered less desirable or schools led by principals who are not considered to be leaders or supporters of their staff. Not all learning occurs during the academic portion of your life’s journey. If one finds that the first job is not the perfect opportunity, then prepare for the time you will find the perfect opportunity. Look for a teacher(s) you admire and who are successful and model what has made them successful. People who are skilled and become expert at their craft or profession will weather whatever change comes along, whether it is an elimination or modification of tenure and changes to the way evaluations are conducted.


A Lively Debate Over Teacher Salaries

Are Teachers Overpaid?

Some Teachers Skeptical of Merit Pay


Washington D.C. rolls out merit pay

Report from The Compensation Technical Working Group: Teacher compensation in Washington

Fordham Institute report: Teacher pensions squeezing states

Landmark California case regarding teacher tenure: Vergara v. California

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