Seven out of 10 teachers give school reform a grade of "C" or less, and half feel that teacher morale has declined even though student achievement is up, according to a nationwide survey released Saturday.
Overall, a majority of the 13,500 public school teachers surveyed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching said that five years of reform had improved the lot of students much more than that of teachers."Teaching is a grueling, thankless job. Most people who criticize teachers could not long survive in many of the nation's schools," concluded the 85-page survey, "Report Card on School Reform: The Teachers Speak."
On the bright side, the survey found that 66 percent of teachers reported higher math achievement among their students, and 64 percent said reading and writing have improved.
Seventy-six percent said educational goals at their schools are more clearly defined than they were five years ago, and 74 percent reported that more is expected of students. Fifty-six percent said the leadership role of their principals had improved.
But when teachers were asked, "If you were to give a grade to the education reform movement, what would it be?" 50 percent gave it a "C," 13 percent a "D," and 6 percent a failing grade. Twenty-nine percent gave it a "B," and only 2 percent an "A."
Forty-nine percent said teacher morale had worsened since 1983, the year a national commission heralded the school reform movement with its report, "A Nation at Risk." Twenty-eight percent reported no change, and 23 percent said morale had improved.
Ernest L. Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation and author of the latest report, said that teachers believe school reform has boosted student performance in the basics like reading.
"But what the data show is that teachers feel largely bypassed in the process. Regulations have added more paperwork and the bureacracy has increased. Teaching conditions have gotten worse. And in the process, morale has gone down," he said in an interview.
A majority of those surveyed reported no improvement or a worsening in key issues affecting working conditions such as study space for teachers, daily teaching load, class preparation time, class size, freedom from non-teaching duties, teacher awards and money to support innovative ideas.
Fifty-nine percent said the salary picture was better than in 1983. But only one in four felt that community respect for teachers had increased.
In his paid weekly column due to appear in Sunday's New York Times, American Federation of Teachers president Albert Shanker said the Carnegie survey indicates teachers "feel they've been had on the promises of professionalism."
Mary Hatwood Futrell, president of the National Education Association, the nation's largest teacher union with 1.8 million members, called the Carnegie report "right on target."
"Teachers tell me that, in essence, they do not have the authority, or the resources, to do what is expected of them," Futrell said in a statement.
The Carnegie poll, one of the largest ever of teacher attitudes, was conducted by mail in November by the Wirthlin Group, a national polling firm based in McLean, Va. Surveys were sent to 40,000 teachers in all 50 states, and 13,576 teachers completed them. The survey had a sampling error of plus or minus 0.84 percent.