Are we asking too much of US teachers? Poll reveals widespread frustration.

The vast majority of teachers surveyed by the Center on Education Policy said that they feel unheard by policymakers at the federal, state, and district levels.

Tammy Real-McKeighan /The Tribune/AP
A teacher (r.) looks over papers with students at Arlington High School in Nebraska. A survey of US educators reveals that a large percentage of teachers feel they are not getting the support they need.

Are the expectations and demands for public school teachers too high? According to a new poll, they might be.

The poll, which was conducted by the advocacy organization Center on Education Policy, found that while teachers themselves may feel reasonably satisfied with the state of their own classroom, when it comes to the profession itself, the vast majority feel discontented and unheard by policymakers at both the state and national level.

"The last decade has been a turbulent time for many teachers," Maria Ferguson, CEP's executive director, said in a press release. "Teachers seem to be growing weary of the demands being placed on them and the inability to get their voices heard."

CEP found that 46 percent, or nearly half, of teachers said state or district policies impeded their teaching. The vast majority of those surveyed, 94 percent, said their opinions weren't taken into account in state or national decisions, and 77 percent said the same was true at the district level.

When asked what would improve their teaching experience, 49 percent of teachers said they needed more planning time during the school day and 47 percent requested smaller class sizes.

Reexamination of the amount of time spent preparing for and taking standardized tests could alleviate the stresses teachers currently face in the classroom, the findings suggest.

"One size does not fit all," one teacher told the pollsters. "I differentiate my instruction; the state needs to differentiate their testing."

The majority of teachers that CEP surveyed said they felt they spend too much time preparing students for state and district-mandated tests. A majority also said they felt students spend too much time taking these required tests. Others said they would not eliminate the tests students are required to take, but merely cut back on how often they are supposed to take them.

Teacher strikes have made headlines in recent months as teachers in Chicago, Detroit, and elsewhere have organized large-scale protests both in support of their fellow teachers and against an education system they say is failing them and their students. In Detroit, the latest in a series of recent "sickout" protests drew 1,562 teachers and closed 94 out of 97 schools. Teachers in Detroit engaged in a districtwide sick-out earlier this week after hearing that of the possibility that they might not get paid over the summer if the district runs out of money. 

Still, some teachers told CEP that despite the challenges they face, they are motivated to stay because of the children they teach and the work they get to do.

"[One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching is] helping students realize that it’s alright to have dreams and goals and they can reach those dreams and goals," one teacher told CEP.

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