National teacher survey: ‘Overworked, underpaid, underappreciated, questioned and blamed’

A teacher survey released today by the American Federation of Teachers and the Badass Teachers Association shows high levels of stress in the profession, which is unlikely to surprise anyone who has been in a classroom in the last year.

One source of that stress is the federal government, which has an education leader at the helm who has made school choice a top priority and described teachers as being in a “receive mode” and” waiting to be told what they have to do.” The survey suggests great teacher unease over Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the Trump White House’s education policies in general.

The AFT has 1.7 million members. The Badass Teachers Association is a network of more than 60,000 teachers committed to social justice in education. It began in 2013.

Below is the official release but I wanted to share some of the findings from the full survey results.

These are critical observations for policymakers to consider:

  • The people who know teachers the best—parents, co-workers and students—showed much more respect for teachers than elected officials and media members, many of whom rarely set foot in a classroom.
  • While educators felt most respected by their colleagues, they also indicated that their direct supervisors showed them much more respect than their school boards, the media, elected officials and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (86 percent of respondents did not feel respected by DeVos).
  • While the majority of educators felt they had moderate to high control over basic decisions within their classroom, their level of influence and control dropped significantly on policy decisions that directly impact their classroom, such as setting discipline policy, setting performance standards and deciding how resources are spent. This lack of voice over important instructional decisions is a tangible example of the limited respect policymakers have for educators.
  • Policies that support healthy interactions in schools are tremendously important. The survey found that educators experience workplace bullying at a much higher rate—more than three times as high—than other workers. While most educators reported that their schools have workplace harassment policies prohibiting bullying, a smaller proportion of respondents said that their schools or districts offered regular training on bullying.
  • These and other factors contribute to an unhealthy work environment. Teachers reported having poor mental health for 11 or more days per month at twice the rate of the general U.S. workforce. They also reported lower-than-recommended levels of health outcomes and sleep per night.
  • The stressful workload, the feeling of having to be “always on,” the lack of resources, and the burden of ever-changing expectations take a toll on educators, and the health problems educators face are compounded by deficient building conditions, equipment and staff shortages, and insufficient time to prepare and collaborate with colleagues.

In reading the full report, I thought these teacher quotes basically said it all:

“This job is stressful, overwhelming and hard. I am overworked, underpaid, underappreciated, questioned and blamed for things that are out of my control.”

“We have too many unrealistic expectations put on us now, and there is a constant message that we aren’t important or worth our pay. Plus, we must teach a dictated curriculum that may not match the needs or abilities of our students, which adds stress.”

“What my school really needs is more social and emotional support for students (more counselors, social workers, etc.). We have students who have experienced trauma, and we struggle with behavior because of it; it causes a lot of stress for everyone.”

Here is the official statement about the survey:

A survey of nearly 5,000 educators released today by the American Federation of Teachers and the Badass Teachers Association shows that nearly two-thirds of educators usually feel stressed out, twice the level felt by workers in the general population.

Most surveyed feel demoralized and disrespected by state and federal officials, especially Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. By contrast, educators in two school districts that have forged strong collaboration among educators, administrators, parents and community reported less stress and were less likely to leave the profession than educators in the broader survey.

In the “2017 Educator Quality of Work Life Survey,”4,000 educators responded to a public survey and 850 AFT educators responded in a random sample. The survey also oversampled members of the Solvay (N.Y.) Teachers Association and the North Syracuse (N.Y.) Education Association, which have strong collaborative labor-management environments. National stress data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health was cited for comparison.

“Teaching is a tough job that carries with it high levels of stress, which obviously affects both students and educators. Stressful work environments can affect student achievement and educator effectiveness, and can be mitigated by a collaborative culture that respects educators and the work they do,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “The survey shows that a supportive work environment is vital to creating schools that are places where teachers want to teach and kids want to learn. These kinds of environments do not come about by chance—they must be intentional.”

Stress levels have climbed over the last two years. “Since President Trump took office, stress and anxiety are on the rise, and we now have a secretary of education whom educators in our survey overwhelmingly feel does not respect them. State and federal cuts to education spending will only make things worse,” Weingarten said.

Marla Kilfoyle, executive director of the Badass Teachers Association, said: “Educators in America continue to report stress levels that exceed the national average. Educators work with our most valuable resource—children. We must continue to push for schools that respect educators and the work they do with our children. In supporting educators, we also support environments for children that are safe, happy and productive.”

The AFT and the Badass Teachers Association conducted a survey in 2015 in which 30,000 educators reported often feeling emotionally and physically exhausted at the end of the day. They cited as the primary workplace stressors the adoption of new initiatives without proper training or professional development, mandated curriculum and standardized tests.

In the 2017 survey, educators remain highly stressed, with the biggest difference between 2015 and 2017 being the jump in the number of days per month educators said their mental health was not good. In 2015, 34 percent said their mental health was not good for seven or more days in the last month. In 2017, that number climbed to 58 percent.

“Things have gotten measurably worse for teachers’ mental well-being in the last two years, and it coincides with Trump’s and DeVos’s cruel and unrelenting disrespect for public schools and teachers. This is the opposite of what teachers need to meet the needs of their students,” Weingarten said.

A study released by UCLA earlier this month shows that since Trump’s inauguration, high school teachers are reporting an increasing problem of stress, anxiety and bullying among their students.

The first step toward reducing educator and student stress is to find out what is happening in our schools, and to build good, collaborative labor-management relationships, Weingarten said, adding that “top-down, mandated ‘quick fixes’ do not work. School districts, school communities and education unions can play a role in improving working and learning conditions.”

Highlights of the 2017 survey include:

  • On amount of time feeling stressed: Nearly two-thirds, or 61 percent, of educators find work “always” or “often” stressful, twice the rate of other workers.
  • On being bullied, harassed or threatened on the job: 27 percent of educators said they have been threatened, bullied or harassed, versus 7 percent of employed adults in the general population. When asked who was the bully, 35 percent identified a principal, administrator or supervisor, and 50 percent said it was a student.
  • On respect: Educators felt most respected by their co-workers, students and students’ parents—the people with whom they interact daily—and felt most disrespected by DeVos (86 percent), the media (61 percent) and state and federal elected officials (59 percent).
  • On control and influence at work: Educators said they have at least a moderate level of control over basic decisions in their classroom, but they report having far less influence over policy decisions, such as establishing curriculum (nearly 40 percent), professional development content (nearly 50 percent) and budget decisions (nearly 80 percent).

Weingarten noted that 34 states still spend less on education than before the beginning of the recession in 2008. DeVos has proposed cutting the federal education budget by $9 billion.

Highlights of results from educators in the Solvay Union Free School District and the North Syracuse Central School District. (The two local unions and their school districts have forged strong collaborative labor-management relationships. Both focus on developing good supports for teachers, including peer mentoring programs, especially for new teachers.)

 •On stress: Solvay educators said work is “always” stressful 19 percent of the time; North Syracuse educators, just 15 percent of the time.

•On respect: 67.5 percent of Solvay teachers and 54.8 percent of North Syracuse teachers strongly agreed that their supervisors treated them with respect, compared with less than half in the broad survey.

“Collaboration doesn’t eliminate all of a district’s problems, but it does enable everyone connected to a school to develop processes that lead to joint solutions to problems, creating a sense of shared responsibility and agency. High levels of stress undermine the ability of schools to be safe, welcoming and healthy places for educators, students and community,” Weingarten said.

A national AFT poll of parents released earlier this year found that parents want well-funded neighborhood public schools that are safe and welcoming, help children develop their knowledge and skills, and ensure equal opportunity for all kids.

 

Reader Comments 0

46 comments
Chantel Lesieur
Chantel Lesieur

Teachers are college graduates and professionals. They are no longer permitted to do their job. We now have politicians who decide what they will teach, when they will teach specific curriculum, how long they are allowed to teach each standard, and have them testing kids continuously. Show me any other job where you are micromanaged to this degree. It is sad because they are trained professionals who know what their students need but their hands are tied.

Neal Towey
Neal Towey

Govt jobs are like that. Get a private sector job.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

I usually don't place much reliance on surveys.  Ask the right questions and you can get someone to agree to nuke the whales and stone the Pope.


Oh, and "Badass Teachers Association"???  What is this, a bunch of middle schoolers?  You really want to hang your hat on a survey from someone who calls themselves a name such as this?

Amy Jones Hatch
Amy Jones Hatch

My only disagreement would be this didn’t just start with Trump. Bush NCLB, Obama’s stupid common core school reform & Trump

Mary Eye
Mary Eye

To put so much of your own time into a job and to have so little respect is heartbreaking.

Mary Eye
Mary Eye

I keep hearing stories that are sickening.

Mary Eye
Mary Eye

Teachers who work in low income schools need a whole lot of support.

gemmy19
gemmy19

That's why all the middle class kids are selling drugs and taking them for their stressful lives.

Chee Hill
Chee Hill

DeVos had never stepped foot in a public school until her appointment by Trump. That's what's ridiculous.

John Sukroo
John Sukroo

And if they are in Fulton County they are in danger of not getting paid because of the tax digest fiasco.

Tricia Vasquez
Tricia Vasquez

Does this really surprise the public? If it does, then the public is very out of touch with reality. I hope they see the light when the full on teacher shortage hits.

Torri Davis
Torri Davis

May GOD bless the teachers of America and send the supporters that you as well as students need●

Starik
Starik

Recruit better teachers and they'll get respect. I respect many, but not all.

RufusATL
RufusATL

@Starik Well, aren't you special.  What a really ignorant remark--probably the stupidest thing I'll read for at least a day or so.

Starik
Starik

@RufusATL @Starik Dunning Kruger. You may not be competent to recognize just how ill-educated some teachers are.

redweather
redweather

@Starik @RufusATL What profession doesn't have members who fail to earn our respect? Your comment suggests that teachers must be held to a different standard than every other profession. How would this be possible?

Starik
Starik

@redweather @Starik @RufusATL Other professions have to pass rigorous tests to be licensed. They also have ethical codes of conduct that governs their behavior.

BRV
BRV

Teachers have all sorts of rules and laws governing behavior including the catchall moral turpitude clause. In the end the rules are only as effective as they are enforced for any profession. It is vastly easier to revoke a teacher’s license than a physician’s license. No group circles the wagons better than physicians yet they remain highly respected. As a good physician friend of mine says, “peer review is where malpractice goes to die”.

gemmy19
gemmy19

I heard in Georgia teacher's dont have a degree but can still teach a class.

Christie_S
Christie_S

Only in non-governmental charter or private schools.

2alt.ajc
2alt.ajc

Most Georgia teachers don't belong to a teachers' union. The constant whining of the two biggest, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association (GAE here), is one reason why.

Their being joined at the hip with the Democrat Party is another.

Starik
Starik

Some teachers are underappreciated for good reasons. They don't have a mastery of the English language, written or spoken, and got Education degrees from the worst college and finished toward the bottom of their class despite an easy degree from an easy school.

RufusATL
RufusATL

We all can read between the lines here--ok, now we know what you are REALLY trying to say.

Elisa Maria Chiara
Elisa Maria Chiara

Random selection from members + BAT’s Qualitty of Life Survey.

Glenn C. Miller
Glenn C. Miller

The appointment of DeVos is a particularly sad blow. She knows nothing about education. But then most of donny’s appointments don’t care about their agencies. Sad.

Shira Newman
Shira Newman

But then most legislation is done by those who know nothing about education. Most curriculum is developed by those who know nothing about education. The biggest donor in recent years knows nothing about education.

Glenn C. Miller
Glenn C. Miller

Shira Newman, agree. But DeVos is so public about church vs. state issues. I find it especially sad.

Brian Willis
Brian Willis

Brian Moody facts play no part in this post, please refrain it just confuses the left!

Brian Moody
Brian Moody

Betsy DeVos? She's responsible for years of underpaid teachers, too large class sizes, APS cheating scandal, common core, nonsensical "zero tolerance" policies and killing the school choice proposals ultimately leading my family to skip public school altogether? That was her? She's been busy... time travelling.

Ken430TX
Ken430TX

In 1980 I left teaching prior to year end when the legislature, in its wisdom, took back a 2% state wide teacher raise to balance the budget, but moved forward with a 3% raise for other state employees.  The handwriting was on the wall then.  Nothing has changed.  I doubled my pay the day I left teaching, and have never looked back or regretted my decision.

Benjamin Hanks
Benjamin Hanks

yeah. all teachers are out there sleeping with students..you really are a special kind of stupid troll

Frederick Wigley
Frederick Wigley

Benjamin Hanks - the Troll calling...aww, go shag yourself.

Benjamin Hanks
Benjamin Hanks

Frederick Wigley gee good comeback...you must be 10 years old.

Frederick Wigley
Frederick Wigley

Benjamin Hanks - you said "...gee..", which means you can't fight a lick, you'll call the cops your wearing a slip and some Jimmy Choo's lol!!!

Astropig
Astropig

Every time in my life that I have felt underpaid,unappreciated,stressed and questioned,I moved on to a better job.


But then again,I could. So I did.