The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Challenges for School Leadership

The release of this year’s Metlife Survey of the American Teacher, conducted annually since 1984, caused an uproar: “Record low job satisfaction among teachers—down 23 percentage points since 2008!,” a typical headline might have read. While a drop in teacher satisfaction is nothing to sneeze at, upon closer inspection, the degree to which this is the case may be overblown. In an insightful article, Bellwether Education’s Andy Rotherham pointed out that the wording of the question aimed at gauging teacher job satisfaction was altered: In 2008 and 2009, teachers were asked, “How satisfied would you say you are with teaching as a career?” In 2011 and 2012, the survey queried, “How satisfied would you say you are with your job as a teacher in the public schools?” Hence, this five-year “trend” appears to be based on survey methods that can be fairly dubbed “questionable.” The numbers bear this out: In the eight years that teachers were asked the “career” question, an average of 53 percent responded that they were “very satisfied”; in the six years that they were asked the “job” version, the average was 41 percent. Still, the decline in job satisfaction marked between 2011 and 2012—5 percent fewer teachers responded that they were “very satisfied”—is cause for some concern. Whether related to heightened accountability or tightened budget belts, this trend may carry consequences for the reform movement in the years ahead.

SOURCE: Harris Interactive, The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Challenges for School Leadership (New York, NY: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, February 2013).

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