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Poll Finds Teachers' Relations With Parents Unsatisfactory

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Although many new public school teachers say they have positive working relationships with students, principals, and other faculty members, only one-quarter rate their experience with parents as satisfying, according to a survey released last week.

Relations with parents seem so troubled that 40 percent of the respondents who said that they intend to leave the profession cited a lack of parental support and cooperation as their primary reason for contemplating such a move.

The survey, funded by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, is the third in a series of reports on new teachers. The 1990 and 1991 surveys measured teachers' attitudes toward public education the years before and after they began teaching.

For the latest study, Louis Harris & Associates surveyed 1,000 teachers, many of them included in the earlier studies, who had been working for two years in public schools.

According to the firm, teachers' expectations of success were relatively high before they began teaching. But after their first and second years in the classroom, they were less optimistic about the effect public education would have on their students' lives.

The greatest discouragement was found among high school teachers and teachers working in urban areas with minority and low-income students.

The Findings

Among the survey's findings:

  • Although half of the respondents said the teachers in their schools are qualified and competent, just over one-third rated the overall quality of the education as excellent.

About 26 percent said their school offers first-rate preparation for college; only 17 percent said students are well trained for jobs after graduation. Teachers in elementary schools and those with few minority or low-income students were most likely to rate their schools as excellent in terms of preparation.

  • After two years of teaching, the teachers were most positive about working with students and other teachers. Seventy percent said their experiences with students have been positive, and close to 60 percent said their experiences with faculty colleagues have been satisfying.

About half said their working relationship with school principals has been productive.

But only 25 percent said they had found parents to be cooperative and supportive. Just under 10 percent said their experiences with parents had been very unfulfilling.

As with school ratings, elementary school teachers and those in schools without many minority or low-income students were more likely to report having positive relationships with students, other faculty members, and administrators.
About one-fifth of the new teachers said it was very or somewhat likely that they would leave the profession within five years.

While these teachers most often cited lack of parental support as their main reason for considering a career change, about 30 percent identified low pay as a major factor.

Again, teachers in public high schools and in schools with large numbers of minority and low-income students were more likely to cite all of these factors as a reason for leaving.

Free copies of the survey can be obtained by writing MetLife, The American Teacher Survey, P.O. Box 807, Madison Square Station, New York, N.Y. 10159-0807.

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