Metlife survey finds teacher job satisfaction at lowest level in 20 years

Published on Friday, March 16, 2012

The 2011 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Teachers, Parents and the Economy, released recently, found decreased teacher satisfaction and increased parent engagement amid economic uncertainty, among other key findings. The survey, conducted annually since 1984 by Harris Interactive, aims to give teachers a voice in the reform of education, including development of policy relating to the teaching profession. 

The survey was conducted in October and November 2011 and was based on a representative sample of 1,000 K-12 public school teachers; 1,086 parents of K-12 public school students; and 947 public school students in grades 3-12.  The 2011 survey probed teachers’ level of satisfaction with their careers, the effects of the economic downturn on education, and levels of parental engagement.

Key findings on teacher satisfaction

  • The level of teacher job satisfaction is at it its lowest level in over 20 years.  In 2011, 44% of teachers indicated they were very satisfied a down from 59% in 2009.
  • The percentage of teachers likely to leave the profession is 29% compared to 17% in 2009.
  • More than one-third of teachers (34%) do not feel their job is secure compared to 8% in 2006, the last time this question was asked.
  • The vast majority of parents (71%) and teachers (77%) say their community treats teachers as professionals.
  • Regarding salaries, a majority (53%) of parents and two-thirds (65%) of teachers say salaries are not fair for the work teachers do.
  • Health insurance benefits are perceived to be fair for the work that teachers do by a six in ten parents (63%) and two-thirds of teachers (67%).
  • Retirement benefits are perceived to be fair by 60% of parents and 61% of teachers.
  • Driving low levels of job satisfaction are these factors:  working in schools where layoff have occurred, where programs like art and music have been cut, where after school programs and health/social service cuts have occurred.
  • Low levels of job satisfaction are likely among teachers who, in the past year, have seen class sizes rise, parents and students in need of health/social services, students coming to school hungry, students leaving to go to another school, and students being bullies and harassed.

Key findings on the effects of the economic downturn

  • Budget cuts were reported by 76% of teachers; 66% experienced layoffs including 44% reporting classroom teacher layoffs.  A majority (53%) reported an increase in staff reassignments.  Parents are unsure about budget-related changes—fewer than one-third were aware of cuts in the budget or in social services.
  • Six in ten (63%) reported class size increases; 36% reported program cuts in music, art, foreign language, or physical education.
  • One-third (34%) say educational technology has not been kept up to date and that school facilities have deteriorated.
  • Increased levels of families needing health/social services, students coming to school hungry were reported while programs targeted to those needs have been cut along with after-school programs.
  • High levels of worry about families not having enough money for the things they need, and worry about parents’ losing or not being able to find a job were reported by parents and students alike.

Key findings on parent and community engagement

  • There are high levels of agreement that schools are helping parents understand what they can do at home to support students although agreement declines among middle and high school parents.
  • Students (64%) report they talk to their parents about school every day and that their parents visit their school at least once a month (46%)—these are much higher levels than in previous studies.
  • Teachers in schools with high levels of parent engagement feel twice as satisfied with their job (57% vs., 25%).
  • Parents in schools with high parent engagement are more optimistic that student achievement will be better in 5 years.  They are more convinced that they and teachers are working together to support students, and give positive ratings to other parents.
  • Essential information sources about schools for parents are their students (96%), teachers (92%), and written communication from school (88%).
  • Parents in urban schools also rely on their principal, parent liaison, PTO/PTA , and other parents as essential information sources.
  • Teachers with high job satisfaction report their school helps parents understand what they can do at home to support students and that their school has a plan for parent and community engagements linked to learning and developmental goals.

The executive summary and full report of the 2011 MetLife Survey can be found here.


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