Teacher Satisfaction Up? What Drugs Does Mr. Kress Take?


Job Satisfaction Among Teachers Said To Have Peaked In 2008.


In an opinion piece for the Dallas Morning News (4/17), Sandy Kress, an attorney and former senior adviser to President George W. Bush on No Child Left Behind, writes, “Teachers today are more satisfied, optimistic and encouraged than at any time during the last 25 years,” results of the 2008 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher show. The latest results illustrate “a picture in stark contrast to the fearful account used by some special interests for political advantage,” according Kress. For instance, “in 2008, a full six years after No Child Left Behind was signed into law, the number of teachers who were ‘very satisfied’ with teaching as a career reached an all-time high of 62 percent. This is up from 40 percent in 1984.” In addition, 75 percent of respondents said that they likely would “advise a young person to pursue a career in teaching,” up from 45 percent in 1984.

The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, conducted by Harris Interactive since 1984, tracks the opinions and outlook of teachers, principals and students. The survey’s latest report, “Past, Present and Future,” details interviews of 1,000 teachers and 502 principals across the nation.

MetLife has no agenda in education politics. It has simply put out the facts – objectively.

Uh, let me dig out my college stats book…..something appears contrived with the stats represented in this article.  Caveat emptor!

I will begin with the obvious and work my way to obtuse. 

Were the same 1,000 teachers interviewed year over year? Was this a credible longitudinal study?  How many of the 1,000 teachers were idealist first year teachers and how many of the 1,000 teachers had made it past five years of teaching?  Do the stats hold true for inner city teachers as for urban teachers? Were any of the teachers at private schools or were they all at public schools? What grades did the 1,000 people interviewed teach?  How many of the teachers interviewed had tenure? Where were the 1,000 teachers selected from and why such a small sample? Can this research be verified?

 One thousand teachers interviewed out of  x total teachers in America.   From 1984 to 2008, the PERCENTAGE of “very satisfied” with the career choice of teaching went from 40 to 62%  This means that anything below very satisfied (satisfied, not satisfied, extremely dissatisfied) went from 60% to 38%.   So, reframing this, anything over10% of your work force not merely hitting satisfied would be a concern.  What is the composite breakdown of the other categories? How was the percentage change calculated?

Teachers in 1984 recommended students pursue the career of eduction at a rate of 45% and in 2008, 75% advised students to pursue education.  Net change of 30%.  Sadly, 25% would not recommend pursuing a career in education – what might the reason be for that?

 Teachers who rate schools’ academic standards as “excellent” – 53 percent in 2008 from 26 percent in 1984.   That means almost 50% (47% rounded) do not view the academic standards as “excellent”.  This means about 1/2 of those interviewed believe the standards are excellent. Albeit, it is an improvement, however continuing to have about 50% who do not see something as excellent also tells you something.

Out of 1,000 teachers, 54% of the interviewed teachers report that at least 3/4 of their students more prepared for their lessons  an arrive able to tackle grade-level material. In 1992, this figure was 44 percent.  This means the perception of teachers ‘feeling’ 3/4 of their students are more prepared went up 10% points.  It also means that 46% of teachers interviewed believe LESS than 3/4 of their students are more prepared for their lessons and arrive able to tackle grade-level material.  If I round 46% up, it is almost 50%.  So, in this case approximtely 50% of teachers on either side of the issue perceive 3/4 of their students to be prepared for their work and able to tackle grade-level material….so, some where from 1/4 to who knows what number (remember, only about 54% of the teachers perceive 3/4 of their students are on target) are not……this would explain why teaching is so difficult.  I would like to add that if one were to look at API scores and the sales of programs to improve literacy, there is no way 3/4 of the students in the U.S. are adequately ready to perform at grade level.

Teachers feel better supported by their schools, with 83 percent rating the availability of teaching materials and supplies as “good” or “excellent,” up from 64 percent in 1984.   Since the teaching materials available are not listed, does this include things such as Read 180, REACH and other literacy programs? Does this include pre-packaged kits for science such as FOSS and anything from a text book company (essentially cookbooks for teaching for new teachers).  Again, looking at sales from various textbook companies and companies with scientifically proven materials, it would seem we are not seeing the high end education materials necessary for students to think beyond  PROFICIENT.  Proficient is the mark of test scores which also means a student is on grade level and does not need to be ‘pushed’ further (also, improving test scores of a student who is proficient does not make standardized test scores go up as much as a student below proficient so most materials are geared to students below proficient).  I would like to know of the teachers interviewed, how many are past their first five years of teaching which is the time period when most teachers begin to get past the kit form of delivery for teaching instruction and really get creative.

Schools’ physical facilities also garner higher marks, as 79 percent of teachers believe their schools’ facilities are “good” or “excellent’.  Again, this means 21% of teachers believe the school facilities they teach in is LESS THAN GOOD.    Are the less than good school facilities in poor communities?  Were the teachers who were interviewed  aware of what good and great facilities look like?   My own recent experience provided middle school facilities which were no where near safe nor appropriate to teach middle school science at grade level (including no fire extinguisher IN the classroom).  There are schools I have subbed in which are marginally better than the schools I taught in during Peace Corps in a third world country – and this is in the bay area, not rural communities.   Of the 20% of the schools which are not good or excellent, what is the story?  In addition,  is this an indicator that the 1,000 teachers interviewed may not have been inner city teachers?  I am not convinced LAUSD has working phones in every classroom yet.

Parental and community support has earned higher marks recently. Teachers believing support was “good” or “excellent” increased from 54 percent in 1984 to 67 percent today.  Again, the converse is 33% of teachers interviewed believe community and parental support is less than a minimum of good.  While it is up 13 percentage points, it is not indicating our communities are anywhere near on board with parental and community support of education in general.

My final comment would be this study does not indicate the parameters of the teachers interviewed, including:

Age of teachers

Years of experience

Location – inner city, urban, rural

Type of school – public, charter, private

MetLife has no agenda in education politics. It has simply put out the facts – objectively.

Without this information, this article, at best, provides low level correlation. Objective?  How about objectionable evidence for FACT….. Evidence to me that this is ‘spin’ by SandyKress as opposed to reality.  If this is an indication of how insurance companies represent factual data (this is not even an actuarial table), it may explain the skyrocketing costs of insurance – you can spin any data to your choice of interpretation.  

Mr. Kress would be well served to align himself with a major university which does educational research so his study could be more believeable.  At a minimum, I would not want a person such as himself being a senior advisor since it does not seem he adequately passed college stats – or he truly believes the American public is stupid.  With an advisor such as this, who relies on companies such as Harris Interactive for data, one leaves themselves open to all manner of scrutiny – the least of which is my opinion.

This was found on 4/22/09 

Education Week (4/22, Sawchuk) reports that “the nation’s oft-criticized systems for evaluating the quality of its educator workforce are poised to receive increased scrutiny, thanks to an Obama administration plan to require school districts to disclose how many teachers perform well or poorly.” The guidelines, issued earlier this month by the Education Department in conjunction with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, require states “to report on the number and percentage of teachers and principals scoring at each level on local districts’ evaluation instruments. States must also disclose whether the evaluation tools take student performance into account.” According to some experts, “the initiative’s success will depend on the administration’s follow-up steps — including the metrics the Education Department sets for reporting evaluation data, and what steps it expects states and districts to take with the resulting data.”

Stimulus Guidelines Require Districts To Report Teacher Performance Data.