Teaching for a Living: How Teachers See the Profession Today

Mickey Muldoon

Jean Johnson, Andrew Yarrow, Jonathan Rochkind, and Amber Ott
Public Agenda
October 2009

This attitudinal review divides teachers into three categories: idealist, disheartened, and contented. A “cluster analysis” method was applied to sort respondents into three categories based on their statistically similar results to survey questions. The idealists are young (22-32), working in underserved communities, and optimistic about the power of education to improve kids’ lot in life; they also believe that their work is notably improving their students’ achievement. The (typically more veteran) disheartened teachers serve a similar population but have a much less rosy outlook: They see themselves as in conflict with administrators over working conditions, with students and parents over behavior, and with policymakers over the current accountability regime. The third group, the contented, serve a much more affluent population in suburbs and high-performing urban schools, and generally report satisfaction with their working conditions. Imagine an archetypal Teach For America corps member, a jaded inner-city public school teacher, suburban veteran teacher, and you get the gist. Analysts found a few big differences between the three groups--for example, 53 percent of disheartened teachers cite low pay as a major drawback to teaching, but only 26 percent of contented teachers agree (maybe because they are making more money?). Perhaps the biggest shocker: A quarter of the disheartened teachers would be interested in teaching in a charter school run by teachers, more than double the rate for contented teachers and idealists. Charter starters: take note. You can read the report here.

More By Author