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Teacher Survey Cites Students' Lack of Readiness

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More than half of all public school teachers think at least a quarter of their students are unprepared for grade-level work, a national survey has found.

The survey, sponsored by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, polled 1,000 teachers during the spring on issues of student preparation. The results show that many teachers are unsatisfied with students' abilities and worry that they are ill equipped to deal with the range of students' problems.

About 55 percent of the teachers said they consider all, most, or at least one-quarter of their students unprepared for their studies. The figure held steady for teachers at all levels.

The survey found wide differences, however, depending on the number of minority and low-income students in teachers' classrooms.

Of teachers with few or no minority students, 42 percent said a significant number of students were unprepared. That number jumped to 55 percent among teachers with "some'' minority students, and to 78 percent among teachers with mostly or all minority students.

Similarly, while 23 percent of the teachers with few or no low-income students said a sizeable portion of their class was unprepared, about 60 percent of teachers with some low-income students and 77 percent of those with mostly or all low-income students cited significant unpreparedness.

Parental Support Lacking

Among teachers citing student-preparedness problems, 65 percent pointed to a lack of parental support as a serious hindrance to students. More than 40 percent cited poverty as a major problem, while 32 percent identified parents' drug or alcohol problems as a cause of trouble.

Other factors identified by teachers included physical or psychological abuse, poor nutrition, student alcohol problems, school violence, language difficulties, student drug problems, and poor health.

In addition to acknowledging problems students bring to the classroom, teachers noted that they often feel stymied in addressing such troubles.

The survey found that fewer than a third of the teachers who noted classroom problems thought that their own education and training had made them "well prepared'' to deal with social factors.

The teachers saw themselves as most able to deal with nutrition problems and least able to address school violence.

Copies of the survey are available without charge from Metropolitan Life, 1992 Teachers' Survey, 1 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10010.

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