Teaching Profession

Two-Thirds of Teachers Say Schools Are Falling Short for Struggling Learners

By Elizabeth Heubeck — April 26, 2023 4 min read
Image of caution tape near the teacher's desk in the classroom.
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Two-thirds of teachers believe their school is not meeting the needs of the students who are struggling the most, a new national survey of teachers finds.

And only 14 percent of teachers surveyed said they would recommend entering the profession.

The dismal findings were released this week by Educators for Excellence, also known as E4E, a national group that advocates for educators. The statistics come from the group’s sixth edition of Voices from the Classroom: A Survey of America’s Educators. This year’s survey, conducted in January and February of 2023, drew responses from a nationally representative sample of 1,000 full-time public-school teachers.

The teachers’ feedback painted a concerning portrait of the teaching profession, student assessment, curriculum, and the state of education in general.

“I’ve definitely cautioned people I know who are interested in pursuing teaching. I say, ‘Are you really sure you want to do that?’ said one survey respondent, Omar Araiza, a 5th grade teacher in Los Angeles, Calif. “I love my job, but it’s a hard job. It takes over your life, and it’s mentally taxing. You have to be really in love with it in order to survive.”

Percentages of teachers who say their school ‘often’ meets the needs of these student groups:

Strong feedback on assessments and content

Ninety percent of survey respondents agreed that students should have a “summative measure of their learning from the beginning to the end of the school year.” But only a little more than half (56 percent) of the teachers surveyed said they believe that their current state assessment provides an accurate measurement of “student mastery of content standards.”

Survey data on content provided particularly concerning feedback. Only 36 percent of respondents reported having the curricular materials they needed to provide effective instruction.

Just 30 percent of teachers agreed that they received effective training to implement their materials.

Survey responses regarding culturally relevant content—including discussions of race, racism, gender identity, and other issues related to identity or oppression—indicated that teachers largely agree on these subjects, and point to some recent progress in schools’ support of this subject matter.

Here are some highlights:

  • Three-quarters of respondents agreed that legal limits should not be placed on classroom conversations on these topics, with an exception for grade-level appropriateness.
  • Seventy-eight percent of respondents reported having received adequate materials and support for “effectively implementing culturally relevant instruction in their classrooms,” compared to 30 percent in 2021.
  • Just 2 percent of respondents said parents should have “ultimate decision-making authority over curricular materials used by all students.”

Dissatisfaction with unions, salary

Survey respondents also made clear their dissatisfaction with their unions. Less than 50 percent reported that their union provides adequate support on the following fronts: mentoring new teachers, extending the career ladder, or negotiating new ways to evaluate teachers more effectively.

Respondents indicated that better pay is an important priority. Two-thirds of the responding teachers said they agreed that higher salaries are the most effective way to attract and retain teachers. Respondents who anticipate leaving the profession ranked wanting a higher paying job as the main reason.

Comparisons to ‘A Nation at Risk’

In a media briefing on the E4E report, Evan Stone, the group’s co-founder and co-CEO, said his organization’s report was modeled on “A Nation at Risk,” the landmark report that fueled a nationwide school improvement movement. It was released 40 years ago this month.

Like that report, the E4E report “investigates how we got here, what needs to change to move us forward,” he said. But “unlike ‘A Nation at Risk,’ this report is grounded in the perspectives of educators instead of civic and political leaders.”

Another distinction between the documents is in how they were reported. The 1983 report put a dramatic spin on its conclusions, saying, for instance: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

The E4E report, in comparison, uses mostly data to get its point across. Distinctions aside, the most recent report indicates that 40 years have not erased the challenges associated with K-12 education, as revealed by the new survey results.

Stone suggested not only that teachers are well-equipped to provide a clear perspective on student learning and the teaching profession, but that they also should be involved in solutions to improve them.

“This report comes from a simple premise,” Stone said, “that educators, who are most proximate to our students in the classroom, should be front and center in creating any policies that will support their students.”

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