Teachers' Morale Reaches 20-Year Low

Thursday, March 08, 2012 - 07:41 AM

The outpouring of reaction to the release of the teacher data reports, as well as the stream of recent articles on blogs and in other publications, has provided a pretty good sense of how many teachers in New York are feeling these days: disappointed, angry, depressed, put upon and fed up.

Now comes a new survey that shows those feelings are not just held by teachers in New York -- nor by an outspoken few. The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, an annual check on the feelings of teachers, parents and students, found that morale among teachers nationwide is the lowest in 20 years, Fernanda Santos reports in The New York Times on Thursday.

More than half of teachers expressed at least some reservation about their jobs, their highest level of dissatisfaction since 1989, the survey found. Also, roughly one in three said they were likely to leave the profession in the next five years, citing concerns over job security, as well as the effects of increased class size and deep cuts to services and programs. Just three years ago, the rate was one in four.

The Times article identifies a good source of the dissatisfaction:

Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonpartisan advocacy group in Washington, said the push for evaluations, punctuated by a national movement to curb the power of unions, had fostered an unsettling cultural shift.

“It’s easy to see why teachers feel put upon, when you consider the rhetoric around the need to measure their effectiveness -- just as it’s easy to see why they would internalize it as a perception that teachers are generally ineffective, even if it’s not what the debate is about at all,” Ms. Jacobs said.

Many of the teachers also report that their schools have been hit with budget cuts, often resulting in layoffs, the loss of important enrichment courses and lags in technological capability in classrooms.

The dissatisfaction was across the board, though worse in urban schools and those with large minority populations, the survey found.

In other news on Thursday, The New York Times looks at the status of the so-called Dream Act legislation in Albany and finds a curious silence.

Much was made of the state Board of Regents' approval of a measure to provide financial aid to illegal immigrants at the state's colleges and universities. But, as John Eligon reports, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has been keeping his distance:

... thus far the advocates have been unable to win public support from Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat who has generally been supportive of immigrants but who faces the possibility that his position could reverberate if he runs for president in 2016.

Mr. Cuomo’s spokesman would say only that the governor was studying the legislation.

Advocates for the legislation are also hoping to win support from at least some Republican lawmakers, as party leaders have increasingly promoted their outreach to the state’s fast-growing Hispanic population. But Republicans have so far issued only cautionary statements about the Dream Act.

With more than one out of five New Yorkers foreign-born, supporters of the proposed legislation -- including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg -- are arguing that providing financial assistance to young people offers a gateway to the American dream.

State Senator Adriano Espaillat, a Democrat from Washington Heights who is a sponsor of a version of the Dream Act, said he was hoping for “the political muscle of the governor” to get the measure passed.

“I haven’t heard him individually, voluntarily speak up on it,” Mr. Espaillat added. “That’s a concern, yes.”

The state Education Department had put the annual cost of the measure at $627,428.

Also on Thursday, The Daily News is reporting some coming relief -- though not a full cure -- for the overcrowding situation in Queens' schools, particularly in District 30.

Four new schools and a building addition are slated to open in the borough in September. When the schools reach capacity, they will offer an additional 3,000 seats, city officials said.

The Department of Education also plans to open an additional four schools and two building extensions in 2013.

“Over the next two years we plan to add an additional 6,000 seats in Queens, recognizing the growing needs of students and families in the borough,” said Education Department spokesman Matt Mittenthal.

And on Wednesday The News reported the arrest of a teacher at Public School 22 Thomas Jefferson in Queens for the assault of a 6-year-old student.

Police sources said Grace Peterson-Hagendorf, a retired teacher working as a substitute at Public School 22 in Flushing, pushed a girl into her seat, twisting her neck with enough force to cause pain and bruising.

Peterson-Hagendorf, 59, who is paid $154 a day, was arrested at 12:28 p.m. at the school, about three hours after the incident, officials said.

She was charged with assault and acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17 years old.

Gotham Schools' Rise & Shine morning post has a more complete roundup of what's in the news on Thursday.

And here is some of what's happening in education in the city on Thursday:

At 4 p.m., a group called the New Settlement Parent Action Committee (PAC) will gather at the Bronx borough president's office "to ask why students in the Bronx are being sent to the precinct instead of the principal’s office, and to urge the NYC Department of Education to implement positive school discipline policies as an alternative to suspensions, expulsions and arrests," a news release says.

Minds Matter, a local nonprofit that provides mentors and scholarships for high-achieving city high school students, is marking its 20th anniversary on Thursday night with a "soiree" at 7:30 p.m. at Pacha NYC, 618 West 46th Street. A news release says, "100% of our mentors are volunteers that give up their weekends from hedge funds, investment banks, technology firms and other professions to give something back to the community." Tickets start at $75.


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