Teaching for a Living
How Teachers See the Profession Today
Jean Johnson, Andrew Yarrow, Jonathan Rochkind and Amber Ott
Everyone agrees that you can't have good education without good teachers, but how do teachers see their profession? Why do people become teachers, what are their frustrations, and what reforms do they think would improve their work? Public Agenda's newest research, conducted with Learning Point Associates and released in association with Education Week, is designed to learn more about how to support and retain the most promising teachers. We're following up on many of the issues we explored in our 2003 survey, Stand by Me, and our 2007 Lessons Learned reports on first-year teachers, as well as adding new questions to explore the differences between "Gen Y" educators and older teachers. This is the first of three reports, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Joyce Foundation. Click here for information on the second report in this series, "Supporting Teacher Talent: The View From Generation Y."
Two out of five of America’s 4 million K-12 teachers appear disheartened and disappointed about their jobs, while others express a variety of reasons for contentment with teaching and their current school environments, new research by Public Agenda and Learning Point Associates shows.
The nationwide study, “Teaching for a Living: How Teachers See the Profession Today,” whose results are being reported here for the first time, offers a comprehensive and nuanced look at how teachers differ in their perspectives on their profession, why they entered teaching, the atmosphere and leadership in their schools, the problems they face, their students and student outcomes, and ideas for reform. Taking a closer look at the nation’s teacher corps based on educators’ attitudes and motivations for teaching provides some notable implications for how to identify, retain, and support the most effective teachers, according to the researchers.
This portrait of American teachers, completed in time for the beginning of the 2009-10 school year, presents a new means for appraising the state of the profession at a time when school reform, approaches to teaching, and student achievement remain high on the nation’s agenda. It also comes as billions of economic-stimulus dollars pour into America’s schools focused on ensuring that effective teachers are distributed among all schools, and Congress will have to consider reauthorization or modification of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act., the nearly 8-year-old latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The study was based on a nationwide survey, with more than 100 questions, of nearly 900 teachers. It was jointly conducted by Public Agenda, a New York City-based nonprofit, nonpartisan research and public-engagement organization, and Learning Point Associates, a nonprofit education research and consulting organization based in Naperville, Ill., that provides direct professional services at the federal, state, and local levels. The work was underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Joyce Foundation. (Both foundations also provide funding to Editorial Projects in Education and Education Week.)
Learning Point Associates is a nationally recognized, nonprofit education research and consulting organization with 25 years of experience working with educators and policymakers to transform education systems and student learning. Our reputation is built on a solid foundation of designing and conducting rigorous and relevant education research and evaluations; developing and delivering tools, services, and resources targeted at pressing education issues; and analyzing and synthesizing education policy trends and practices. Our professional staff of 150 continues to grow as our work expands both nationally and internationally. Our offices are located in Chicago, Washington, D.C, Naperville, Illinois; and New York. For more information, please visit www.learningpt.org http://www.learningpt.org.
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.
The Joyce Foundation supports efforts to protect the natural environment of the Great Lakes, to reduce poverty and violence in the region, and to ensure that its people have access to good schools, decent jobs, and a diverse and thriving culture. We are especially interested in improving public policies, because public systems such as education and welfare directly affect the lives of so many people, and because public policies help shape private sector decisions about jobs, the environment, and the health of our communities. To ensure that public policies truly reflect public rather than private interests, we support efforts to reform the system of financing election campaigns.