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Study Finds Teachers Unhappy With Reform Process

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An independent nationwide survey of teacher attitudes has found widespread disenchantment among teachers with the way in which education-reform measures have been drafted in their states.

In the second "Metropolitan Life Survey of the American Teacher," commissioned by the insurance company and conducted by Louis Harris & Associates Inc., 64 percent of a nationwide sample of teachers said reforms enacted in their states reflect the views of administrators and not of teachers.

Almost half of the 1,846 elementary- and secondary-school teachers who participated in the survey said the reforms do not reflect their views.

The survey indicated that teachers have had little impact in charting the direction of reform. Only 37 percent of the respondents reported that their views had been "sought in some way" during the formulation of their states' reforms; the remaining teachers said they had not been consulted.

Teachers questioned in the poll said students have benefited more than teachers from education-reform measures implemented thus far. But less than 50 percent thought either group had been positively affected. Forty-two percent said reforms have had a positive effect on students; 36 percent said the reforms have benefited teachers.

Twelve percent thought reforms had had a negative effect on students; 44 percent saw no effect at all. Thirty-four percent believed reform had adversely affected teachers.

Unions Respond

Mary Hatwood Futrell, president of the National Education Association, said the poll "hit the mark." When it comes to reform, the majority of teachers feel ignored by policymakers, Ms. Futrell said. "This poll is all about teachers, telling it as they see it," she added. "And they are telling the public that the future of American education is headed for deep trouble unless teaching is treated as a true profession."

Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the Metropolitan survey "underscores the fact that most states have moved in the reform direction, but all of us agree much more must be accomplished."

"It is my hope," he said, "that greater input from those directly involved in education will be well received as we enter the fourth year of 'reformation."'

Mr. Shanker said that with the nation facing a critical teacher shortage, "it would be unwise to ignore these important poll results."

Leaving the Profession

The poll's findings also suggest that the projected teacher shortage could be worse than anticipated. More than one out of four of the public-school teachers questioned said they are likely to leave the profession for another occupation within the next five years. And 51 percent said they have seriously considered leaving teaching for another line of work.

The National Institute of Education last year estimated that by 1992 the country will have 34 percent fewer teachers than are needed to adequately staff the nation's classrooms. And many districts around the country are already reporting difficulty finding enough teachers.

Teachers in certain categories, the survey found, are more likely to contemplate leaving the profession than others. Secondary-school teachers, for example, are more likely to do so than elementary-school teachers; male teachers are more likely than female; and inner-city and urban teachers are more likely than those in other areas.

The poll's results were calculated from a randomly selected national sample of classroom teachers surveyed by telephone last spring.

Raise Teacher Salaries

Nearly 95 percent of those polled said providing teachers with "a decent salary" would facilitate "keeping good people in teaching."

In addition, nearly 80 percent said that "providing compensation to beginning teachers comparable to other professions that require similar training" would raise the quality of people coming into the profession.

Of the survey respondents who have considered leaving teaching, 62 percent cited low pay as their main reason.

But the group also named additional sources of job dissatisfaction, including:

Working conditions, such as long hours, overcrowded classrooms, too much paper work, and too many nonteaching duties (41 percent).

Student-related factors, such as problems with discipline and motivation (31 percent).

Lack of administrative support and dissatisfaction with administrators (25 percent).

Lack of respect (25 percent).

Boredom, frustration, burnout, and stress (22 percent).

But, having cited the profession's pitfalls, three out of four of those giving thought to leaving the classroom agreed that the satisfactions of teaching, derived mainly from relationships with students, have convinced them to stay. Twenty-seven percent of the group said they remain in the job because they "love to teach."

In addition, 43 percent of the teachers who have decided to stay cited as factors in their decision such tangible benefits as job security, summer vacation, and good working hours as reasons.

Schools' Problems

Students' academic deficiencies, drinking, and drug use--cited by high-school teachers in last year's Metropolitan survey as the most serious problems in their schools--continued to vex secondary-school teachers responding this year.

Eighty percent of those responding reported "lack of basic skills among students" as their schools' most serious problem.

The most serious problem facing elementary schools--cited by almost half of the elementary-school respondents--is overcrowed classes.

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