Recruitment & Retention

Surveys: Teachers Underappreciated, But Satisfied With Their Work (Mostly)

By Jordan Moeny — May 05, 2015 2 min read
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For Teacher Appreciation Week, HuffPost and YouGov surveyed 1,000 people across the country last month to get an idea of how the public feels about K-12 teachers. The answer: pretty good.

Just over half of the survey respondents said that on a national level, teachers are underappreciated, with just eight percent saying educators are “given too much attention.” On a local level, teachers apparently receive more recognition: Only 43 percent of the respondents said teachers are underappreciated in their community, and more than a third responded that teachers get the level of appreciation they deserve.

The results were very similar when the survey asked about teacher pay. Fifty-two percent of respondents said that teachers are paid too little, and eight percent said they’re paid too much, while the remainder either thought teacher salaries were just about right or were unsure.

Breaking the results down by demographics yields some interesting findings. People in the northeast part of the country were the least likely to say that teachers are underpaid and underappreciated. Republicans were more likely than Democrats or independents to say that teachers receive too much pay and attention, though they also described their own children’s teachers as “excellent” more often than other groups did. And almost no people of color think teachers are overpaid—just one percent of Hispanic respondents and no black respondents answered this way, compared to 11 percent of white respondents.

In a separate survey released this week, the University of Phoenix polled about 1,000 teachers about the profession. Almost 9 in 10 (88 percent) said that they were satisfied with their jobs, and 68 percent said they would recommend the profession to others.

At the top on the list of reasons for teachers’ job satisfaction is the effect they have on students’ lives (68 percent), followed by “lifelong learning opportunities” and the variety offered by the job (43 and 41 percent, respectively).

That doesn’t mean that teachers wouldn’t improve anything. Tuition reimbursements, mentorship opportunities, and more relevant professional development and teacher preparation were all offered as suggestions for ways to increase teacher happiness and improve retention rates.

As you are certainly aware, teaching comes with its share of frustrations as well. Policies created by non-teachers were the most-cited source of aggravation (78 percent), and two-thirds of teachers listed a focus on standardized testing as a challenge of the profession.

And no matter what the public as a whole thinks, teachers may be facing a lack of appreciation from their own students: The third-most-common job frustration, cited by 60 percent of teachers, was students’ lack of respect for authority.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.