MetLife Survey: Teacher Dissatisfaction At an All-Time High

Teacher job satisfaction has plummeted to its lowest level in 25 years, from 62 percent in 2008 to 39 percent in 2012 – a total of 23 points, according to the annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, released on Thursday. In addition, teachers reporting low levels of job satisfaction were more likely to be working in schools with shrinking budgets, fewer opportunities for professional development, and less time allotted for teacher collaboration. More than one-half of teachers report feeling under great stress several days per week, as opposed to one-third in 1985.

The survey—the 29th in an annual series commissioned by MetLife and conducted by Harris Interactive1— examines the views of teachers on challenges facing schools, budget and resources, professional satisfaction, and implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

“The survey’s findings underscore the responsibilities and challenges educators must address to ensure America’s young people are prepared to compete and collaborate in the global economy,” said Dennis White, vice president of corporate contributions for MetLife. “We hope the findings of this survey will help us all pose and address questions about school leadership that can turn challenges into opportunities for better student achievement.”

The survey’s results, says National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, are sadly no surprise.  Pressure on our educators –teachers, support staff and administrators–is at unprecedented levels and resources continue to be scarce.

“Of course educators are wringing their hands. Classrooms are already crammed with students, programs and services have been cut, and teachers are entering pink slip season…all while the further budget cuts loom as a result of fiscal cliff inaction,” Van Roekel said.

“Educators are doing everything they can to provide the best education possible for their students, but the rug just keeps getting pulled out from under them.” NEA members continue to warn against the potential impact of impending fiscal cliff cuts, which kick in on March 1 unless Congress acts to avert them.

NEA believes teachers sense of personal fulfillment in their jobs depends on access to sustained, job-embedded, collaborative professional development, a sense of autonomy and professional responsibility, and most importantly, the ability to grow within the teaching profession.

According to the MetLife survey, time for collaboration and professional learning remains limited. More than six in ten teachers say that time to collaborate with other teachers and professional development opportunities have either decreased or stayed the same during the past 12 months. Diminishing professional development correlates with the school’s financial condition. Teachers who report that their school’s budget has decreased in the past 12 months are three times as likely as others to report that there have been decreases in time to collaborate with other teachers (35 percent vs. 11 percent) and in professional development opportunities (27 percent vs. 8 percent).

“Lawmakers must ask themselves, ‘how much longer can our schools continue to be drastically underfunded and understaffed without significant damage to the quality of the education our students are receiving? Educators work hard to give their students the great education they deserve, but the MetLife survey is compelling evidence that their resolve is wearing thin,’” said Van Roekel.

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

  • Corey Flynn

    I have been teaching for the last 10 years in the same district. In that time, I have been one of the “lucky” ones.

    Since 2008 our district has cut roughly 42 positions- and we are facing another round of cuts for the 2013-14 school year. Sadly, in the face of detrimental cuts to funding and sweeping education reform, the strongest call for action has been to take away teacher benefits, like health insurance. This serves to underscore the current view society has on our profession.

    Those of us left in classrooms are tired of fighting to do our job and are desperately searching for a way out of the profession we love.

    “There’s only so many times you can kick a dog before it turns viscous…” or in this case, it leaves with its tail between its legs.

  • Susan Nunes

    No surprise here. Teachers are being vilified, and what few protections they have are being gutted.

    Teaching is going to be nothing but a call center-type job if the privatizing juggernaut isn’t stopped dead in its tracks.

  • Brian Bussing

    Oh boo hoo!
    I am pretty sick of hearing our Teachers complain about their jobs. IMO … If they don’t like it … they can drag their overpaid and underworked butts out of their chosen field and out into the real world where they can struggle to survive like the rest of us.
    Judging by how our children fare in tests compared to other developed nations … they aren’t doing a very good job anyways.

  • Annabelle Lee

    I agree with all of you. I have been teaching for over 12 years. A prefession once loved has become a profession that requires so much from us with so little support or notice. I remember a time when we were allowed to teach, now we are made to be robots and “create” miracles from a class in which all the children are the “same.” Really?? Just let us do our job the way we know how!! We have the degree!

  • Annabelle Lee

    I mean “profession”

  • Anne Zuidema

    I have been an educator for 42 years and taught on both sides of the Atlantic. Currently I teach second grade in Northern Virginia. I believe in developmentally appropriate curriculum. Sadly that is not what is being offered to our students today. I have a Master’s Degree along with almost all of my colleagues as we are required to have high level qualifications. Unfortunately, there is no autonomy and we are constantly tasked with proving that we know what we are doing. This actually takes away from time we could better spend in planning. Our kindergartens are so academic, there is little time for social skills and creativity. There are too many tests. My joy in teching has definitely diminished although I still enjoy being with the children. Those who can…teach. Those who can’t teach tell us what to do! My hope for this next generation is that the wheel will turn and administrators will develop some common sense. Otherwise, everyone will lose.

  • Brian Bussing

    Good God!

    We have Annabelle and Anne above who both claim to be Teachers … and both made stupid spelling mistakes.
    Good luck with your teching prefession ladies … LOL!

    wtf … ?
    I’m just a stoopid hick Plumber and I even I can do better than that!

    I think I can rest my case …

  • NYCteacher

    Stupid hick plumbers should stick to plumbing.

  • Brian Bussing

    I think as a Taxpayer who helps foot the bill for you poor mistreated Teachers, I have the right to voice my opinion.

    According to the National Center for Education Statistics … “The average salary for full-time public school teachers in 2010–11 was $56,069 in current dollars”
    According to the US Census … the “Per capita money income” for 2011 was “$27,915”
    and the Median HOUSEHOLD income for 2011 was “$52,762”
    Sounds like a pretty decent job money-wise to me.
    The stats show that above all … Teachers should not complain about their wage and benefits whatsoever.

    If you don’t like the other aspects of the job that you are paid very well to do … then don’t let the door hit you on your way out.
    You can be easily replaced.
    Bunch-o-entitled-whiners I say.

    • Deadre

      You sound like a very intelligent, level-headed sort of person. I’m so glad you’ve chosen to find your way here to contribute to the conversation. I’m sure you’ve done your research – including one source makes your case so much more reliable. Bravo!

  • Joyce Gregory

    The teachers are not to blame. They are told what to teach and how to teach it by the bureaucracy. I am not a teacher. If I were I would be very upset with the unionization of the profession. Bad teachers and good teachers are put into the same pot and treated alike. It gives the entire profession a bad rap. Their pay and working conditions are much better than our soldiers, sad but true, and they have more perks. So, I don’t think they have anything to complain about on that scope of things………but on the curriculum, and how to present it….yes, they have a lot to complain about. The results (to put it mildly) suck. If I still had children at home, they would be home schooled…….no doubt. I deplore what is going on in the educational system of today.

  • Mary Ann

    There is a sense of deterioration in everything. The level of student competence, the civility of administration, the condition of the classrooms, the equipment, the number of students in a class, the dropping of hours or courses, the cleaning staff cut or only cleaning bathrooms once a day where hundreds of hundreds use the facilities all day and evening too, the adding of expectations eating time uselessly unrelated to teaching, the number of part-time teachers, the lack of training of new, the wanting of body and soul free, the lack of sleep due to projects that run into night, very night, poor transportation, and so on and on.
    All the talk is of change – which sounds positive, but if you look out of the side of your eye, you can’t miss the slow crumbling of the whole institution.

  • Susan Nunes

    Given how political school districts are, teachers HAVE to be treated alike. There is no comparison between education and other sectors of the economy, including the military. They aren’t well compensated for their education and with all of the tremendous responsibility that goes with their jobs. If you are upset with education, you need to look at administrators, who are typically the “bad” teachers (as the dangerous ones are typically fired along with many of the best teachers who happened to get too old, too outspoken, or make “too much money”) who couldn’t cut it in the classroom and wanted to get out. THEY are the ones who are “well compensated” and have NO accountability for their actions. They are the ones who can destroy teachers’ careers on a whim and blackball them from ever work again. This doesn’t happen in other occupations.

  • Jeff

    This is my 19th year and I have come to the conclusion that we need to stop rolling over on our backs & showing our bellies. When we consider transferring to a different school, district, or state, the conditions are the same. The politicians and business industry NEED TO STOP treating education and children like a business or a factory. We are in the business of teaching and INVESTING in the future. We are not in the business of constructing an inanimate object here. The common core may be good in theory, but why is it so difficult to interpret–let alone impossible to explain? I want to enjoy my career instead of referring to the profession as a “job.”

  • Anne Zuidema

    I believe unions and professional organizations are essential. I have a 30 minute duty free lunch time and guaranteed planning time courtesy of my association. I am also supported in the event of an unfair dismissal claim..not that I ever expect to use it…but it is there. Some administrators have unrealistic expectations of a teacher’s time in spite of our working a 10-12 hour day plus time at weekends.

  • joe shmow

    There is no “s” on the end of the word “anyway”. The “t” in taxpayer is not capitalized. So if you want to talk about spelling mistakes, maybe you should check your syntax. As far as teachers being entitled, we are, the problem is.. we don’t get what we are entitled to. Your abbreviated presentation of statistics do not work. Are referring to including unemployed people in the per capita money income category? Your sarcastic and emotional comments do not help “your case.” I suggest you do your research and prove your case, rather than attacking those of us that are out there in the trenches. I hope you really do rest your case, because you don’t have one.

  • Jonathan K.

    When is the last time you heard of an administrator being cut because of lack of funding?

    I worked at a school that had 1,200 students where the top seven administrators sucked close to one MILLION dollars out of the budget in salary alone. That school cut teachers, did away with the IT department and lunchroom staff and farmed out those jobs to save money. Why did they cut those positions? To justify their own salaries! That is the biggest issue for a lot of administrators- “Who should I cut so I can keep my high-paying job?”

    The top administrators are in a position to manipulate the budget and justify their moves to school committees who in some cases, haven’t a clue it’s being done.

    The administrators are the ones sucking the education out of our public school systems! They have to be monitored better and held accountable.

    At the aforementioned school the Superintendent is paid $180,000 in salary. He gets a car and all expenses (one building, 1,200 students).


  • joe shmow

    I was told it was my Principal’s birthday this weekend, and if I want to sign her birthday card, I have to make a donation. How much does she make as opposed to my salary, which has not increased in about 8 years? Actually, I did get a raise, but with mandatory contributions to the retirement system, I am bringing home about $30.00 less per pay. I’m just saying…. I guess I will have to forego signing the birthday card.

  • Jonathan K.

    In vocational schools students must get accepted in order to gain entrance. Many students who will not go to college and are ideal candidates for a vocational education are being denied because the Superintendent does not want a potential low achiever muddying their statistics. It’s a “not on my watch” mentality. Instead of boasting about their students who enter the trades, vocational Superintendents are prouder to boast about how many of their students are going on to post secondary schools.

    I taught at a proprietary school and many of the students who had wanted to go to vocational schools, were denied entry, ending up paying for the education after high school. Apparently their “test scores” or behavioral history (k-8) was enough to prevent a vocational Superintendent from allowing them the privilege of a vocational education.

    The denials are all media driven as stats are published annually and vocational Superintendents want to shine. It is no longer about the students, it’s about the perception of how well the school is run by the administration.

    Vocational Superintendents are the highest paid Superintendents per student in the education system. Some receive salaries in excess of $180,000, a car and car expenses, and all the other perks for watching just one building with 1,200 students. Education has become a business and it’s top CEOs (Superintendents and Principals) are cashing in-

  • Jonathan K.

    And no one flunks out at a vocational school.

    If they can’t jump the bar, the bar is lowered.

    If they can’t jump that bar, it’s lowered again.

    If they can’t jump that bar, it’s lowered again.

    If they have to, on graduation day the bar is laying on the ground and all the student has to do is be able to step over it to get his/her diploma.

    It’s all about the published statistics, the dog ‘n pony show they put on to keep their high-paying jobs and their job credibility in case they want to move up.

    Public education should be about the students, and in some cases it is, but too many times it’s about the administration and the “perception” of their success.

    By not failing the students, they’re failing to provide them with a chance to improve and become productive individuals. The stats look good!


  • Sad

    I taught for 8 years at an inner-city school. I was never given a bad observation and was even nominated as a state teacher of the year. I began to be bullied this year by the new administration. After one episode, I went to my doctor in tears. The bullying didn’t stop. I ended up quitting for my health. I don’t understand why this happened to me. I feel as if I was targeted and they wanted me out. Last year, my class had the best scores at my grade level. Why would the new principal want me out? Why was I treated like dirt? Now that I’m gone, they are targeting (bullying) another teacher. This is complete insanity!!

  • Jonathan K.

    Hey Sad,

    You’re not alone.

    Check Out “Bullying of Teachers Pervasive in Many Schools” by twalker

    There’s 741 comments made by teachers who are wondering the same thing- “Why was I targeted?” And additionally “What is being done to prevent this from happening?” “Who holds administrators accountable?” And, “Is this bullying out of control?”

    Check us out & decide for yourself if this “bullying” is an epidemic in the public education school system-


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  • Toy

    I have been a teacher for 14 years and most of the things mentioned I have seen, experienced, or been a part of. Our profession is under attack by a group that wants to take over elections. It has nothing to do with us but who and why our unoins tend to support a particular party. Its all about the money. The less money we give to our unions the better, so they push for magnet schools, charter schools, vouchers, and even teach for america to limit the power of the unions. Unfortunately, while we were busy doing our jobs and teaching their children there was a plan set up to muddy the teaching profession and the teachers. My fellow teachers it will get worse before it gets better. When there is nobody to teach Johnny how to sit in his seat and follow the lessons presented, it will change. Sadly, it will not change until then:(

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  • ciara

    Nice article. Teachers are over worked, overly criticized, and blamed alot. It takes time away from family life to type two page lengthy wordy lesson plans and those sloppy papers that must be graded and fingerpointing yelling parents. Is all that worth it? I think Beyonce Madonna rihanna likevtheir jobs better cause alot of people hate teachers and teaching.