Merrimack College poll: Teacher satisfaction plummets amid CRT and LGBTQ legislation
If educators could advise their young people themselves to pursue a career in teaching, 55% say it’s unlikely, according to the results of a just-released study. Merrimack College national survey of 1,324 teachers.
The results of the nationally representative survey which were released during a webinar hosted by Education week Friday also revealed that 44% of educators surveyed were somewhat or very likely to leave the profession to pursue another profession in the next two years. This is the highest percentage recorded since the 1980s, according to similar polls conducted in recent decades.
Less than half of educators surveyed said they felt respected and considered professionals by their communities. Female teachers reported feeling less respected than men at all levels in K-12 schools.
Dan Sarofian-Butin, professor and founding dean of the Winston School of Education and Social Policy at Merrimack College, said the results are troubling, especially that only 4 in 10 teachers feel respected by the general public.
Polls frequently show that fewer students want to get into teaching, he said.
“So when I teach future teachers, teachers are the frontline workers of our democracy, right? We don’t just teach reading, writing and arithmetic. We teach students how to be good citizens. When we have fewer high school and college students who want to become teachers, that really worries me,” he said.
Merrimack College’s first-ever teacher survey was conducted from January 9 to February 3 and has a confidence level of 95%.
The survey results, titled “Deeply Disappointed,” indicate that only 12% of educators surveyed said they were “very satisfied” with their job. This figure was significantly lower than previous MetLife surveys conducted from 1984 to 2012. The MetLife survey found that 62% of teachers were “very satisfied” with their careers in 2008. The lowest number on the duration of MetLife surveys was 39% in 2012.
When asked how state-level legislation on critical race theory, history education, and issues affecting LGBTQ students, families, and educators had impacted sentiments teachers about their work, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachersreplied, “Do you have about 30 minutes for this answer?”
Educators and education systems have endured controversy in the past, from teaching evolution to controversies over communism and McCarthyism, she said.
“You have these inflection points … where part of society feels uncomfortable with what the story arc is and the society arc is, and that’s the recipe for a culture war,” she said.
Teachers’ work is “relational,” Weingarten said.
“When children cannot express who they are, or teachers express who they are, then there is something hidden or inorganic in a classroom. When we can’t teach an honest story, we don’t do what we need to do to help the story arc turn toward justice. … Teachers feel uncertain and really uncomfortable with these new laws, which are essentially about erasing the diversity of who we are as a society,” she said.
Daniel Willingham, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, said the survey results indicate that “teachers feel extremely unsupported by many groups that they have traditionally felt really supported by and that include many parents”.
During the pandemic, there were many school districts in which teachers worried about their safety because they didn’t believe the proper protocols were still in place, and meanwhile, “parents of children that they like asking them to come back immediately.
Willingham said education research now shows that educators’ teaching practice improves over time, so retaining seasoned teachers is important.
“So when you talk about losing experienced teachers, it’s a very serious, potentially very serious problem. It’s not just a question of “OK, there’s turnover and we need to hire more people”. We are losing our best employees and so we need to dig deep” to find out what is behind their dissatisfaction and what can be done about it, he said.
The survey also looked at teacher compensation, which is especially timely in Utah as school districts and local teachers’ associations begin to complete their salary negotiations for the upcoming school year.
The survey found that a typical teacher works about 54 hours a week and less than half of that time is spent teaching students directly, according to the survey.
According to the survey results, just over a third of educators who have been teaching for more than 20 years said their salaries were fair for the work they do.
Meanwhile, among teachers new to the career, those who taught less than three years, a quarter said they felt their pay was fair, compared to 18% among educators who completed three to nine years. teaching and 27% of those in the field 10 to 20 years.