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K-12 Teachers Rate the Ability to Affect Students, Lifelong Learning Opportunities and the Variety That Exists in the Field as Top Reasons to Join the Profession, Finds University of Phoenix Survey

National Survey Explores the Rewards and Challenges of the Profession at a Critical Time in U.S. Education and How Teachers Want Parents Involved in the Classroom

PHOENIX, May 4, 2015 – With school districts across the nation[1] facing teacher shortages, current teacher satisfaction and the ability to recruit new talent to the profession are critical. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 4 – 8) and the invaluable role teachers play in students’ lives, University of Phoenix® College of Education surveyed 1,002 K-12 teachers across the country to explore how they feel about the profession, what can be done to attract high quality teachers to the field and how they want parents involved in the classroom. The survey was conducted online by Harris Poll in April.

A large majority (88 percent) of K-12 educators indicate satisfaction with their decisions to become teachers and nearly seven-in-ten (68 percent) teachers who entered the field in the last ten years would recommend the profession to others. Seventy-one percent of K-12 teachers say seeing students grow is what they enjoy most about teaching.

“Teaching is one of the most important, honorable and rewarding professions,” said Pamela Roggeman, Ed.D., academic dean for University of Phoenix College of Education and former 17-year K-12 teacher. “At a time when many schools are facing critical teacher shortages while trying to stay competitive in areas such as STEM education, all stakeholders must do their part to highlight the amazing opportunity teachers have to shape tomorrow’s leaders and recruit candidates to the field who have passion for children and learning.”

Why Teachers Joined the Profession and Think Others Should Too

Nearly half (47 percent) of K-12 teachers were inspired to join the profession by a teacher they had when they were students. Sixty-nine percent became teachers because they enjoy working with children, 65 percent had a desire to make a difference in children’s lives and 30 percent wanted to inspire change in education.

“The fact that so many educators were inspired by their own teachers to pursue the profession is an indication of the lifelong influence teachers have on their students,” said Roggeman.

Top reasons K-12 teachers would recommend the profession to others include:

  • The ability to profoundly affect students’ lives (68 percent)
  • Lifelong learning opportunities (43 percent)
  • The variety that exists – no two days are alike (41 percent)
  • Benefits (19 percent)
  • Collaboration happening in schools today (16 percent)
  • Technology is bringing new opportunities into the classroom (15 percent)
  • Professional development opportunities (15 percent)

Workplace Challenges

K-12 teachers are no exception when it comes to facing challenges in the workplace. Policy development by those outside the profession (78 percent) is the greatest source of frustration for teachers, followed by standardized testing (67 percent) and students’ lack of respect for authority (60 percent).

“K-12 education is one of the most visible and publicly-debated fields in the nation, so it is not surprising that the public scrutiny can at times weigh heavily on teachers, but the survey demonstrates that the benefits of shaping young lives overwhelmingly outweigh frustrations,” said Roggeman. “There are also many exciting developments in the field, including innovative ways to tear down classroom walls and bring concepts to life with technology. In fact, the survey reveals that 96 percent of teachers today use technology in their classrooms.”

Improving Teacher Retention

Improving teacher retention is also key to addressing teacher shortages says Roggeman. In fact, nearly all (96 percent) K-12 teachers say there are things that should be done to improve teacher retention.

They cite the following as ways to improve teacher retention:

  • Tuition reimbursement programs (56 percent)
  • Mentorship programs that support teachers in their first few critical years of teaching (53 percent)
  • Relevant professional development opportunities driven by school needs (49 percent)
  • Teacher preparation and continuing education aligned with classroom dynamics – merging theory and practice (48 percent)

Parent Involvement in the Classroom

Parents are an integral part of learning and nearly all teachers (97 percent) identify ways they want parents involved in the classroom. This is not limited to younger grade levels as 95 percent of high school teachers want parents to be involved. More than half (56 percent) of K-12 teachers say fewer than 25 percent of parents are involved in their classrooms.

How teachers would like parents to get involved in their classrooms:

  • Ask about areas for improvement with their child (63 percent)
  • Communicate regularly with them (63 percent)
  • Do not wait until there is an issue to connect with teachers (62 percent)
  • Donate supplies (54 percent)
  • Volunteer in the classroom (34 percent)

How to Say “Thanks” During Teacher Appreciation Week and Get Involved in the Classroom Year-round:

  1. Ask your child’s teacher how to get involved. Do not forget to share with the teacher how much time you have, what your talents and strengths are, such as editing expertise, access to guest speakers, willingness to chaperone events and desktop publishing/website design.
  2. Donate a book. Identify a book that aligns with your child’s curriculum and donate it to the school library in the teacher’s name.
  3. Replenish supplies. Find out if there are any supplies teachers need to get through the end of the year, pack up the classroom or prepare for the year ahead. Late in the school year, many classrooms get low on critical supplies.
  4. Set up an appointment: Schedule regular check-ins with the teacher about your child’s academic and social progress.
  5. Express gratitude in your child’s words: Ask your child to write a note to the teacher, create a presentation about what they learned this year or present the teacher with a collage of his/her favorite moments. This will show the teacher how much he/she affected your child during the year.

Tips for Individuals Interested in Exploring the Teaching Profession:

  1. Consider becoming a substitute teacher: Substitute teaching can be a great way to become engaged in K-12 education and explore different subjects and grade levels. The best substitute teachers come prepared by familiarizing themselves with lesson plans and having grade-appropriate activities ready if the teacher’s absence was not planned. The day’s news from a newspaper or online news source can be a great way to spark meaningful dialogue and tie learning to real world events.
  2. Explore diverse routes and programs that lead to licensure: K-12 students are diverse and benefit from teachers with diverse backgrounds. Higher education is becoming more customized every day. There are many options for those who want to make career changes, are working full-time or have not been in the classroom for a number of years. Do your research to determine the best path for your needs and educational background.
  3. Volunteer in a school or classroom: Connect with local schools to determine volunteer opportunities. If you have a specific area of expertise, offer to bring a subject matter to life via an in-class presentation or video conferencing. This is particularly desirable if you work in a STEM-related field.
  4. Volunteer with youth organizations in your community: There are many organizations in the community that benefit from volunteers, including those for at-risk youth. The experience can also provide insight into how children learn and the grade level and subject areas that interest you.
  5. Be social: Many teachers have embraced social media as a way to engage with other teachers and share ideas. Follow education publications and blogs, engage in social media discussions and read articles about critical K-12 topics, such as Common Core.  
  6. Conduct informational interviews with teachers and administrators in your district: Talk to teachers and administrators about the field, the need for teachers locally, and qualities and preparation that lead to fruitful teaching careers.  

For more information about Teacher Preparation programs, continuing teacher education and professional development programs at University of Phoenix, visit phoenix.edu/education.

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix between April 14 and 27, 2015. Respondents included 1,002 U.S. residents employed full-time as teachers in grades K-12 who have at least an undergraduate degree. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Tanya Burden at tanya.burden@apollo.edu.

About University of Phoenix College of Education

University of Phoenix College of Education has been educating teachers and school administrators for more than 30 years. The College of Education provides associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs for individuals who want to become teachers or current educators and administrators seeking advanced degrees to strengthen their professional knowledge. With education programs available throughout most of the U.S., the College of Education has a distinct grasp of the national education picture and priorities for teacher preparation. Faculty members on average bring more than 17 years of professional experience to the classroom. For more information, visit www.phoenix.edu/education.

ABOUT UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX

University of Phoenix is constantly innovating to help working adults move efficiently from education to careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant and engaging courses, and interactive learning can help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. As a subsidiary of  Apollo Education Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: APOL), University of Phoenix serves a diverse student population, offering associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs from campuses and learning centers across the U.S. as well as online throughout the world. For more information, visit www.phoenix.edu.

[1] U.S. Department of Education: Office of Postsecondary Education, “Teacher Shortage Areas Nationwide Listing: 1900-1991 through 2015-2016,” https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/pol/tsa.pdf