Report: Public school teacher satisfaction hits lowest levels, division over union representation persists

Teachers have expressed their greatest level of dissatisfaction with their profession in years, according to a recent survey conducted by EdChoice, a national nonprofit organization that promotes state-based educational choice programs.

Its annual “Schooling in America” national survey asked 777 current public school teachers about their opinion of their profession, state accountability systems, standardized testing and school choice reforms.

The survey also included questions about parents’ schooling experiences, awareness of school funding and school choice, and an oversample of rural and small town Americans’ feelings about K-12 education in their communities.

The majority of the teachers surveyed are overwhelmingly white – 84 percent compared to 71 percent of the general population – and hold college degrees at a rate of nearly three times the general population. They are more likely to live in middle-income households, which EdChoice defines as between $40,000 and $80,000 per year.

The demographic data is weighted according to targets specified by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. EdChoice asked teachers “Net Promotor Score” (NPS) questions, which the organization also used in previous surveys of state legislators and military service members.

EdChoice found that teachers’ answers to the same questions scored more than 50 points lower than these two groups. On a scale of 100, state legislators reported a net-positive NPS score of 41 and members of the military a 45. Teachers, on the other hand, reported a -17 NPS score. The first two groups held a high level of promotion of and commitment to their professions.

Public school teachers, the report notes, are expressing discontent with their profession and are “passive about their profession or worse.”

“These NPS levels should concern states and school districts looking to retain their teachers and attract new ones to the profession,” Michael Shaw, research assistant for EdChoice, writes.

Shaw points to a 2012 MetLife Survey of American teachers revealing satisfaction among all public school teachers had dropped at that time to its lowest point in a quarter century. The 2017 EdChoice survey results, Shaw adds, “indicate teacher satisfaction may be even lower since 2012.”

Overall, the survey found that more than 70 percent of teachers support increasing salaries; more than half oppose laws mandating agency or union representation fees; roughly three out of 10 teachers support school vouchers or charter schools, which differs substantially from higher levels of support among the general public.

“The mean values of the responses “appear to indicate public school teachers are less likely to recommend public school teaching to friends or colleagues, compared to military and legislators making similar judgments about their professions,” the report notes.

When it comes to which people teachers trust most, the majority answered that they have “complete” or “a lot of” trust in their school’s principal (57 percent) and in their students (52 percent).

Less than half say they trust their teachers’ union leadership (46 percent), their school superintendent (41 percent), or their students’ parents (36 percent). Using Educators for Excellence polling, the report found that nearly half of public school teachers (46 percent) agree that unions provide teachers with feelings of pride and solidarity in addition to the practical benefits of membership. Slightly less, (43 percent), replied that they really only receive practical benefits from their union membership, whereas less than one in 10 (7 percent) said their union membership makes them feel uncomfortable.

When asked about the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision prohibiting the collection of agency fees of non-members, 58 percent supported the decision.

Public school teachers trust the federal government least, according to survey results. Roughly one-third or less of teachers expressed trust in their school board (35 percent), state Department of Education (28 percent), or the U.S. Department of Education (25 percent). In sum, teachers trust their principal more than the federal government by a margin of two-to-one.

“The results imply there may be opportunities for school leaders to have a more prominent role and function to address teachers’ concerns and frustrations,” the report states.

EdChoice President and CEO Robert Enlow adds that the survey results make clear the “disconnect between policymakers who are debating these issues in state capitols and in Washington” and teachers and parents.

This article was first published by



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