Overall job satisfaction of American teachers remains high

Most teachers report job satisfaction, study shows

by Candice Mancini

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Teacher stress is high and teacher job satisfaction has hit a 25-year low, say sources reporting on the 29th annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher (uft.org, 2013). Factors that contribute to low teacher morale include reduced budgets, increased focus on standardized testing and fewer professional development opportunities. While the findings raise valid concerns for those earning their teaching degrees, the study's less-publicized numbers offer hope.

Addressing teacher satisfaction

The MetLife survey reveals that numbers of "very satisfied" teachers have been declining for years -- from 62 percent in 2008 to 39 percent in 2012 (metlife.com, 2013). This is cause for alarm and should instigate change, maintains American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. In a February 2013 press release, Weingarten warned, "When teacher dissatisfaction is at a 25-year high, school leaders have to stop ignoring the red flags and start listening to and working with teachers to figure out what they and their students need to succeed" (aft.org).

To accomplish this, Weingarten suggests providing teachers the resources they need to be successful, such as allocating more time for teacher collaboration and professional development. In particular, Weingarten is concerned that teachers are not receiving the support they need to successfully implement the Common Core Standards their students will be assessed by (aft.org, 2013).

Common Core Standards and standardized testing

The goal of the Common Core Standards is "to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce." Although they have been in the works for years, the first standards -- for English and math -- were released in 2010. Additional subjects are forthcoming (corestandards.org).

Teachers face challenges with high-stakes standardized testing that reflects the standards. If too many students fail, harsh consequences could follow, such as principal and teacher firings and even school closures. The environment has contributed to increased teacher stress and reduced teacher satisfaction. In the long-term, however, proponents of the standards maintain that things will improve -- both for teachers and the nation's schools.

The good news for teachers

News stories have long broadcast the ways American schools have lagged behind those of other nations'. For instance, a December 2010 PBS NewsHour article lamented that the U.S. "received a stark wake-up call" when international test scores placed America at 23rd or 24th in most subjects (pbs.org). Proponents of the Common Core Standards believe that once teachers are adequately prepared, the American education system will improve. In turn, this could enhance teacher motivation and potentially launch teacher job satisfaction to new levels.

"States and private organizations are planning and implementing substantial professional development efforts" to prepare teachers for the standards, claims Robert Rothman in the Harvard Education Letter (hepg.org, 2012). In the meantime, even through these bumpy times, the majority of teachers remain satisfied in their jobs. Amid the dire news, the MetLife study reveals that only 17 percent of teachers claim to be "somewhat dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied," while 82 percent proclaim to be "somewhat satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their jobs (metlife.com, 2013).

Forbes concurs with these findings, placing teachers at No. 6 in their 2011 list of "Ten Happiest Jobs," stating, "Teachers in general report being happy with their jobs, despite the current issues with education funding and classroom conditions" (forbes.com, 2011). This is good news if you are pursuing a degree in education.


"About the Standards," 2012"Poll Finds Teacher Satisfaction, but Reports Skew Results," Andrew Rotherham, February 25, 2013"Math, Science, Reading Scores Show U.S. Schools Slipping Behind," PBS NewsHour Extra, Compiled by Kurtis Lee, December 10, 2010"The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher," February 2013"AFT on MetLife Survey of the American Teacher," February 21, 2013
"Nine Ways the Common Core Will Change Classroom Practice," Robert Rothman, July/August 2012"Survey finds teacher job satisfaction at 25-year low," March 21, 2013"The Ten Happiest Jobs," Steve Denning, September 12, 2011

About Author

Candice Mancini has been a writer and educator for over a decade. Currently a high school teacher, she has also taught elementary school, middle school and college.