Special Report
Education

Deciding Factors

By Jennifer Park — January 09, 2003 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Most districts trying to reduce teacher turnover and increase the number of well-qualified teachers in their schools have focused on improving hiring and recruitment practices. But research suggests that working conditions and salary levels actually are more on teachers’ minds as they decide where to teach and whether to stay or leave.

To learn more about the issue, Education Week conducted the first analysis of teachers’ perceptions of working conditions based on the U.S. Department of Education’s 1999-2000 Schools and Staffing Survey, or SASS--the nation’s largest sample survey of administrators and teachers. SASS provides information not contained in any other data set about teacher characteristics and opinions. It is statistically representative at both the national and state levels.

For the Education Week analysis, “high poverty” refers to public schools in which at least half of the students are eligible for federal free or reduced-price lunches. “High minority” refers to public schools in which at least half of the students are nonwhite. And “low poverty” and “low minority” refer to public schools in which 15 percent or fewer of the students are, respectively, eligible for subsidized school meals or are nonwhite.

The analysis found that while teachers from all types of public schools share similar opinions about some aspects of their work environments, those in high-poverty or high-minority schools face much more challenging working conditions.

For example, a majority of teachers in all types of schools are reasonably satisfied with their schools and their administrators. Most teachers “somewhat” or “strongly” agree that staff members in their schools are recognized for a job well done (68 percent), that their schools’ administrations are supportive and encouraging (79 percent), that their principals let staff members know what is expected of them (88 percent), and that their principals enforce rules for student conduct (82 percent).

Teachers across all types of schools also believe that routine duties and paperwork interfere with teaching; 71 percent of teachers somewhat or strongly agree with that assessment.

But, in general, teachers in high-poverty and high-minority schools report experiencing more difficult working conditions, as shown by a variety of indicators. Teachers in such settings, who arguably are taking on a harder job, also report less satisfaction with their pay than those in low-poverty or low-minority schools. Some 46 percent of teachers in low-minority and low-poverty schools say they are satisfied with their salaries, compared with about a third of teachers in high-minority and high-poverty schools.

Among the major findings:

STUDENT MISBEHAVIOR

  • Thirty-four percent of teachers in low-minority schools agree that student misbehavior interferes with teaching, compared with more than half the teachers in high-minority schools (52 percent).
  • Twenty-nine percent of teachers in low-minority schools report that student tardiness is a “moderate” or “serious” problem in their schools, compared with more than half the teachers in high-minority schools (54 percent).
  • Student disrespect for teachers is seen as a moderate or serious problem by 38 percent of teachers in low-minority schools, but by 58 percent of teachers in high-minority schools.

SCHOOL SAFETY

  • Teachers in high-poverty schools are more than three times as likely as those in low-poverty schools to report that physical conflicts between students are a moderate or serious problem in their schools (34 percent vs. 11 percent).
  • Teachers in high-poverty schools are more than twice as likely as their counterparts in low-poverty schools to report that robbery and theft are a moderate or serious problem in their schools (21 percent vs. 9 percent).
  • About 13 percent of teachers in high-poverty schools report having been threatened by a student in the past year, compared with 6 percent of teachers in low-poverty schools.
  • Teachers in high-poverty schools are twice as likely as those in low-poverty schools to report that vandalism of school property is a moderate or serious problem in their schools (23 percent vs. 11 percent).

ACCESS TO RESOURCES

  • Eighty-one percent of teachers in low-minority schools say that essential materials and equipment such as textbooks, supplies, and photocopiers are available as needed, compared with 65 percent of teachers in high-minority schools.
  • Similarly, 80 percent of teachers in low-poverty schools agree that such instructional materials are available as needed, compared with 68 percent of their peers in high-poverty schools.

PARENT INVOLVEMENT

  • One of the largest discrepancies between high- and low-poverty schools centers on teachers’ perceptions of parental involvement. Lack of parent involvement is seen as a moderate or serious problem by 75 percent of teachers in high-poverty schools, compared with 36 percent of those in low-poverty schools.
  • Similarly, 76 percent of teachers in high-minority schools view lack of parent involvement as a moderate or serious problem, compared with 45 percent of teachers in low-minority schools.

A version of this article appeared in the January 09, 2003 edition of Education Week

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure Webinar
A New Era In Connected Learning: Security, Accessibility and Affordability for a Future-Ready Classroom
Learn about Windows 11 SE and Surface Laptop SE. Enable students to unlock learning and develop new skills.
Content provided by Microsoft Surface
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Making Technology Work Better in Schools
Join experts for a look at the steps schools are taking (or should take) to improve the use of technology in schools.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: April 27, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: April 6, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: March 30, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
6 min read
Education Briefly Stated: March 16, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
7 min read