Forty Percent of America’s K-12 Teachers Appear Disheartened

Two out of five American K-12 teachers appear disheartened and disappointed about their jobs, according to new research by Public Agenda.

The nationwide study, “Teaching for a Living: How Teachers See the Profession Today,” offers a comprehensive and nuanced look at how teachers differ in their perspectives on their profession, why they entered teaching, the atmosphere and leadership in their schools, the problems they face, their students and student outcomes, and ideas for reform. Teachers surveyed fall into three broad categories which researchers designated the “Disheartened,” the “Contented,” and the “Idealists.”

• Disheartened teachers account for 40 percent of those surveyed and are twice as likely as other teachers to strongly agree with the view that teaching is “so demanding, it’s a wonder that more people don’t burn out.” More than half teach in low-income schools and 61 percent cite lack of support from administrators as a major drawback to teaching.

• Contented teachers make up 37 percent of teachers and are more likely to say that their schools are “orderly, safe, and respectful.” About two-thirds of this group teaches in middle-income or affluent schools, and the majority holds a graduate degree. Sixty-three percent strongly agree with the statement that “teaching is exactly what I wanted,” which is supported by the fact that 82 percent have been teaching for more than 10 years.

• Idealist teachers make up 23 percent of teachers surveyed and are more likely to believe that “good teachers can lead all students to learn, even those from poor families or who have uninvolved parents.” More than half are 32 years old or younger and teach in elementary schools, and 36 percent say that, although they intend to stay in education, they plan to leave classroom teaching in the future for other jobs in education.
“Teaching for a Living: How Teachers See the Profession Today” is based on a nationally representative survey of 890 teachers.

Source: Public Agenda

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