National Studies Spotlight School Inequality, Teacher Dissatisfaction—Texas Teachers Can “Relate”

School Inequality
New data from the U.S. Department of Education show that America’s schools are still separate and unequal, and our failure to address this problem will consign legions of minority children to a disadvantaged and economically limited life, AFT President Randi Weingarten said.

The new data from the department’s Office for Civil Rights, released March 6, come from a national survey of more than 72,000 schools.  Key findings include:

“African-American students, particularly males, are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their peers. Black students make up 18% of the students in the CRDC sample, but 35% of the students suspended once, and 39% of the students expelled.

“Students learning English (ELL) were 6% of the [reported] high school enrollment, but made up 12% of students retained.

“Only 29% of high-minority high schools offered Calculus, compared to 55% of schools with the lowest black and Hispanic enrollment.

“Teachers in high-minority schools were paid $2,251 less per year than their colleagues in teaching in low-minority schools in the same district.”

The results, said AFT President Weingarten, reveal “a betrayal of our collective duty as a nation to guarantee every student a fair shot at success. It is neither morally acceptable nor economically wise to continue to ignore this problem. It is urgent that we summon the political will to address this problem now in a serious, thoughtful and comprehensive way. Most important, we must use this data as an opportunity to drive needed change and reflect on our role as educators of our children, not to further demonize teachers.”

Weingarten added: “There are kernels of success in districts across the country, where schools have created a strong learning community in which teachers and students are respected and receive the tools they need. These schools invest in mentors, counseling and other services for students.

“This report makes clear the importance of high-quality teacher preparation and development programs that prepare educators and school staff to support diverse learners in healthy learning environments and gain classroom management skills and experience. This deep knowledge and training is something that is missed in shortcut programs that parachute teachers into classrooms for short teaching stints.”

Weingarten also pointed to other factors that affect students’ success. “It’s not enough,” she said, “to pay teachers more to teach; we must address other factors such as safety, resources, crumbling school buildings, inadequate school facilities, and dated textbooks and instruction materials.”

Teacher Dissatisfaction

The latest “MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Teachers, Parents and the Economy” shows that education budget cuts to public schools and the demonization of teachers have taken a toll on teachers’ job satisfaction.

The findings of this new national survey echo what we have found in our two recent Texas surveys of teachers and other school personnel, parents, and superintendents:  Deep budget cuts are destructive, hurting educators’ morale and hurting students’ educational opportunities.

“Often, we hear how important teachers are. But this survey tells us what teachers themselves are thinking, and it’s very sobering,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said. “Teachers are telling us they have the lowest level of job satisfaction in more than two decades and that a growing number are planning to leave the profession.

“It’s not surprising that the most satisfied teachers are those who have support; they are treated as professionals, are given opportunities for professional growth, teach in communities where parents and educators collaborate to improve teaching and learning, and have job security. Sadly, at a time when we need to recruit and retain talented teachers and prepare kids for the knowledge economy, the teaching profession is becoming less attractive and more difficult.

“We need to pay attention when the teachers most likely to be dissatisfied are those with at-risk students—students who have the most needs but the fewest resources, at school and at home, because of the economic crisis. Teachers consistently say they need the tools, resources and time to improve teaching and learning—the same things that teachers in top-performing countries receive virtually without fail. U.S. teachers are frustrated with unrelenting cuts in budgets, elimination of arts and after-school programs, larger class sizes, and accountability systems that over-rely on student test scores. This should call into question the obsession with cutting funding for public education and health and family services children and parents rely on.

“The report’s silver lining is that there’s more engagement among parents, teachers and community groups to help students succeed.

“This report provides a commonsense road map for what we need to do to build successful schools: respect teachers, engage parents and the community, and, even in tough times, provide the programs and resources necessary to ensure high-quality public schools.”

Some key findings from “The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Teachers, Parents and the Economy”:

* Teacher satisfaction has decreased by 15 points since “The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher” measured job satisfaction two years ago, now reaching the lowest level of job satisfaction seen in the survey series in more than two decades.

* This decline in teacher satisfaction is coupled with large increases in the number of teachers who indicate they are likely to leave teaching for another occupation, and in the number who do not feel their jobs are secure.

* Teachers with high job satisfaction are more likely to feel their jobs are secure and say they are treated as professionals by the community. They are also more likely to have adequate opportunities for professional development, time to collaborate with other teachers, more preparation and supports to engage parents effectively, and greater involvement of parents and their schools in coming together to improve the learning and success of students.

* More than three-quarters of teachers have faced budget cuts in their schools in the last year.

* Two-thirds of teachers report that their schools have had layoffs of teachers, parent/community liaisons, or other staff in the last year.

* Nearly three in 10 teachers indicate that there have been reductions or eliminations of health or social services in their schools.

* Six in 10 teachers report that the average class size in their schools has increased.

* One-third of teachers also indicate that educational technology and materials have not been kept up to date to meet student needs.

* Students report greater parent engagement in their education compared with students 25 years ago. Two-thirds of today’s students report that they talk about things that happen at school with their parents every day, compared with four in 10 in 1988.

* There also has been a threefold increase in the number of students who report their parents visit their schools at least once a month, up from 16 percent in 1988 to 46 percent today.