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Teacher Stress and Disengagement Impacts Student Performance

Recent polls and surveys indicate that many educators are feeling stressed and disengaged, which puts at risk not only their teaching, but also students’ performance. The morale of administrators and students is also suffering.

According to State of America’s Schools: The Path to Winning Again in Education, nearly 70 percent of teachers report not feeling engaged in their work. Nearly half report experiencing job-related stress daily.

Based on the responses of 70,000 U.S. employees, including 7,200 K-12 teachers, researchers classified 31 percent of teachers as “engaged” at work. This was a similar percentage compared with respondents overall. The share of workers described as “not engaged” among teachers, however, was slightly larger than it was for the general workforce—56 percent versus 52 percent. Compared to other professions, teachers also were the least likely to report that their opinions counted at work.

The 2014 State of America’s Schools report also indicated that when teachers are stressed or not fully engaged in their work, students feel the impact. Teachers’ engagement levels are directly related to those of their students—and thereby to student achievement outcomes.

“Disengaged teachers are less likely to bring the energy, insights and resilience that effective teaching requires in the classroom,” the authors explained. “They are less likely to build the kind of positive, caring relationships with their students that form the emotional core of the learning process.”

According to The Washington Post, teacher satisfaction has been trending downward for some time. In 2013, it reported on the latest MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, observing that teachers’ level of satisfaction had dropped 23 percentage points since 2008. Only 39% reported being “very satisfied,” the lowest level seen in 25 years.

Interestingly, less satisfied teachers were more likely than “very satisfied” teachers to be in schools where budgets had declined in the last 12 months.

The survey also revealed ambivalence about school reforms—only 17 percent of teachers were confident that the Common Core State Standards will improve student achievement.

Administrators less satisfied due to increasingly tough job

The MetLife report, Challenges for School Leadership, also noted that nine in 10 principals believed they should be accountable for everything that happens to the children in a school. Three-quarters of principals said they feel the job has “become too complex,” and seven in 10 principals said their job responsibilities were different compared to five years prior.

Accordingly, job satisfaction decreased nine percentage points in less than five years, from 68 percent to 59 percent feeling “very satisfied.” Half of principals reported feeling stressed several days a week.

Are students paying the price?

Gallup’s 2014 State of America’s Schools Report, based on a 2012 survey of 600,000 students in grades 5-12, asked about their feelings of hope, engagement and well-being in their school. Forty-five percent of students said they did not feel engaged, and the rate of disengagement increased with grade level.

The report concluded that teachers have the biggest influence on student engagement. Students reporting that they had at least one teacher who made them excited about their future, or that their school was committed to the strengths of each student, were 30 times more likely to be engaged in their schoolwork.

Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Gallup Education, discussed the findings, telling Education Week the relationship between teacher and student must be effective.

“The right leadership and the engagement of teachers and students are all one very important ecosystem,” he said. “Any link broken in that chain, and you are undermining the importance of an entire school.”


Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World
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