Teacher Morale Study
By Byron Hays/The Huntsville Item
The latest update on Sam Houston State University Professor David L. Henderson's biennial survey of state teachers was released recently at the Texas State Teachers Association Convention in Dallas. The results immediately drew attention in the national media as well as in a number of Texas newspapers.
As education institutions and agencies are showing a growing anxiety over a looming teacher shortage of a significant magnitude in both Texas and the nation, the insight Henderson's study provides may get even more attention than in the previous decades.
The biennial survey began as Henderson's brainchild in 1980. He was interested in a study that would gauge the morale and economic status of Texas teachers, and proposed his "Teachers, Moonlighting and Morale" study concept to the Texas State Teachers Association. His proposition was that he would do the study, do the analysis, and provide the results--if they would pay the postage costs for the survey mailings and provide the names.
The association agreed, and Henderson has faithfully done the survey every two years since.
He said the idea was prompted by a friend of his, retired SHSU Professor Charles Darby. In a conversation one day, Darby said that he planned to visit his daughter, a Texas public school teacher, that night. Then he paused and corrected himself, said Henderson, and said, "No, I can't. I think she is moonlighting tonight."
That got Henderson wondering about just how many teachers were doing that, and why, and that perhaps the subject would make an interesting study.
And it did.
Surprisingly, as you look over the data categories for the past 20 years covered by the survey, the only really big changes in the data are in income, and the fact that most now have computers at home.
Teachers are still primarily female (80 percent). About 60 percent of them are married, which is down from the 77 percent of 1980. And 51 percent of them are the family's primary breadwinner--up from the 40 percent in 1980.
The average years of teaching experience was 11.8 in 1980, and that number is now 10.
The average teacher salary in 1980 was $14,113 per year, and today it is $35,178. However, Texas teachers still lag the national average, as Texas is in 25th place nationwide in average teacher salaries.
As an interesting comparison, Henderson said he has heard of one report that puts the average compensation for Texas public school administrators as the sixth highest in the nation.
As a morale indicator, the study finds that 43 percent of teachers have considered leaving the profession. That number was 38 percent in 1980 and has been as high as 45 percent in the 1990 survey.
The major issue for leaving now does not appear to be money, but "working conditions," and by a nearly 2-1 margin. Teachers listed stress, paperwork, hassles and stress as reasons.
Only 10 percent listed retirement as a reason.
Breaking that down by gender, 60 percent of male teachers had thought about leaving, and 38 percent of females have.
The worst problem teachers see in the Texas school system? The survey said: discipline.
Here are some comments about discipline problems made in an unofficial survey of some Huntsville teachers in a 1994 survey:
Of a small group of HISD teachers who responded, 100 percent said they seriously had considered leaving the profession. Their greatest dissatisfaction was not their salaries as one might expect, rather, it was teaching in classes where they had little control over disciplining students.
According to one teacher, "The problem is discipline. Because of state mandates, we can't discipline these kids. We need to get rid of the ones who are interfering with learning."
Problems with those students "take up a great majority of class time," and other students suffer in the meantime, the teachers agreed.
At times, the HISD teacher said, there are even kids in school that she feels are too dangerous to be with the general population. It is the fear of these students that attributes to the hindrance of others' learning.
HISD instituted a structured, pre-set discipline program this past school year. As of yet, no unofficial teacher survey has been made to compare results with the 1994 study.
Henderson's son, Travis, who is data coordinator for the Windham school system of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, was a major help in processing the data that the 2000 study gathered.
The study is based on a systematic random sample from a total list of approximately 80,000 teachers. The statistical sampling reached 710 teachers.
Another teacher, this one from the Henderson study, attributed the problem to the kids' families: "Teaching has become more difficult every year as the family and society has decayed."
Besides examining morale, the study produced a profile of the average Texas teacher as follows:
Byron Hays is a reporter for The Huntsville Item. He can be reached at (936) 295-5407 ext. 3026 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
- She is female.
- She is 40 years old.
- She is married with a working spouse.
- She earns $35,178 per year teaching and may be the primary family breadwinner.
- She has a bachelor's degree.
- Twenty-eight percent of her fellow teachers moonlight, and 78 percent of them believe that they could do a better job teaching if they weren't doing do.
- Forty-three percent of her fellow teachers have considered leaving the profession.
- Ninety-one percent say student social grade promotions are a problem.
- Fifty-seven percent say their worst problem is discipline.
- Forty-two percent do summer work.
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SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
May 14, 2000
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