The MetLife data is compelling: Fear is a defining element in american schools

This week’s release of the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Teachers, Parents, and the Economy illustrates just how fear-plagued our schools have become. The whole report is worth reading, but check out this data (interspersed with my commentary):

In the past five years the number of teachers who feel their jobs are secure dropped from 92% to 64%. I guess accountability hawks would welcome this decline— they want teachers to sweat from year to year over whether their test scores have shown enough value added. I see it as a surge of fear, pushing more and more potentially strong teachers out of the profession.

29% of teachers report being fairly likely or very likely to leave the teaching profession within the next five years to go into a different occupation. That’s up from 17%, nearly doubling the number from just two years ago. When you add the retiring baby boomers to that number, we find ourselves facing unprecedented turnover. Recruiting, training, and supporting strong teachers who stay in the profession must be a priority. But what type of profession will they be entering?

Only 44% of teachers report being very satisfied with their jobs— a fifteen-point drop since 2009 and the lowest in over 20 years. The economic downtown has injected significant stress into an already-struggling school system.

72% of parents and 65% of students worry about their family not having enough money for the things they need. Over 60% of parents worry about losing or not being able to find a job. Interestingly, there is a startling information gap between parents and teachers. 76% of teachers report decreases in their schools’ budgets in the past year. However, only 35% of parents thought their child’s school budget decreased; 32% didn’t know. The report goes further: “Lower income parents are particularly unsure— nearly half (47%) whose household income is less than $50,000 [did not know].”

66% of teachers report that their school has had layoffs in the past year. Layoffs are everywhere, ripping away much-needed teachers and poisoning the atmosphere. The toxic “last in, first out” debates breed generational bitterness in an era when teachers need to unify.

Pessimism and worry are pervasive in American schools. Contending with elimination of services, suffocating poverty, more layoffs, larger classes, and an accountability regime at odds with genuine teaching and learning, America’s teachers are freaked out.

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