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New Survey Assesses Stress Factors Leading to Burnout

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Violence and noise in high schools and heavy workloads in elementary schools are among the greatest contributors to teacher stress, according to a survey released last month by two New Orleans researchers.

The "teacher stress scale," developed specifically to measure the factors that contribute to teacher burnout and fatigue, was developed by Elaine G. Wangberg, associate professor of education at the University of New Orleans, and Justin Levitov, assistant professor of education at Loyola University.

The researchers said they found few differences between high-school and elementary-school teachers' vulnerability to nine factors that they found to cause stress in the predominantly urban public schools included in their sample.

The nine factors of stress and teacher dissatisfaction, the survey showed, are burnout, environment, work rewards, the need to accept "caretaker" responsibility, outside control, physical symptoms, overload, health habits, and unreasonable standards.

"I'd say the results were consistent with what we expected," said Mr. Levitov, noting that high-school teachers complained more of danger in the classroom and elementary teachers were more bothered by excessive paperwork and supervision of students.

The main stress areas were determined by the reactions of 397 teachers in the New Orleans area asked about 75 statements. (See accompanying box.)

The researchers presented their paperlast month at the Phi Delta Kappa National Leadership Institute in New Orleans. They said that they still need to "fine-tune" the survey to make it more useful to administrators and teachers.

"What this says is that teachers are more alike than not," said Mr. Levitov. "It gave us a new focus, narrowed areas where we need to be concerned."--ce

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