MetLife 2006 Survey of the American Teacher

Harris Interactive:

The 2006 survey looks at the expectations of teachers upon entering the profession, factors that drive career satisfaction, and the perspectives of principals and education leaders on successful teacher preparation and long-term support. In addition, it examines data collected from past MetLife American Teacher surveys to understand the challenges teachers face and their likelihood of remaining in the profession in order to recommend recruitment and retention strategies. Through focus groups of prospective and former teachers, also conducted by Harris Interactive, the report offers added insight about why individuals choose to enter the profession, and why some “opt out” early.

Key findings include:

1. Today’s teachers face challenges:

  • Most teachers do not have enough time for planning and grading (65%), helping individual students (60%) or classroom instruction (34%).
  • Although teachers’ professional prestige is on the rise, nearly four in 10 (37%) say their professional prestige is worse than they expected.
  • Two-thirds of teachers (64%) report their salaries are not fair for the work they do.

2. The struggle to retain teachers gives cause for concern:

  • One quarter (27%) of teachers say they are likely to leave the profession within the next five years to enter a different occupation.
  • The veteran teacher with 21 years or more experience is more likely than his or her less-experienced colleague to “opt out”—that is, more than twice as likely to leave the profession (56% vs. 26%).

3. Principals and education leaders have dramatically different perspectives on what new teachers should expect on-the-job.

  • More than half of principals (54%) think teachers are unrealistic about the number of hours they will work each week, in contrast to 32% of deans and chairpersons.
  • More than half of principals (52%) believe teachers are unrealistic about the number of students with special needs with whom they will work, in contrast to 25% of deans and chairpersons.

4. Teachers’ experiences align more closely with what principals say they should expect than with the views of deans and chairpersons who prepare them for classroom life.

  • Four in 10 teachers (42%) work more with special needs students than they expected.
  • Fifty-eight percent of teachers find the hours they work each week are worse than expected.
  • Three of the four top strategies teachers recommend for recruitment and retention—a decent salary, more financial support of school systems and more respect in society–are similar to those of principals.

5. Still, there is good news about the state of K-12 education:

  • Despite the challenges they face, teachers’ career satisfaction is at 20-year high: 56% are very satisfied with teaching as a career, a 70% increase over findings reported in the 1986 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Restructuring the Teaching Profession.
  • Today’s new teachers feel better prepared to engage families, work with students of varying abilities and maintain order in the classroom than did their than experienced peers when they first entered the career.
  • Eighty-two percent of new teachers were matched with a more experienced mentor during their first year of teaching, compared to only 16% of veteran teachers.

Full Survey 800K PDF.