Released in two parts last month, the 2011 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Preparing Students for College and Careers offers perspectives on the college- and career-readiness goal from middle and high school teachers, students and parents, and business executives from Fortune 1000 companies as a voice of employers. The survey is the twenty-seventh in an annual series commissioned by MetLife and conducted by Harris Interactive.
“We all have a role to play in ensuring that students gain the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in their education, careers, and personal lives,” said C. Robert Henrikson, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of MetLife. “MetLife is committed to sharing the views of teachers and others to help launch an important discussion about priorities for education in the twenty-first century.”
Part 1 of the survey, Clearing the Path, was released on March 9 and examines the importance of being college and career ready, what this level of preparation includes, and what it may take to get there. It finds broad agreement that graduating each and every student from high school ready for college, with 93 percent of secondary school parents, 85 percent of secondary school teachers, and 80 percent of executives holding this view.
The study also finds that more students expect to go to college today than in the past. In 1988, only 57 percent of middle and high school students said it was “very likely” that they would go to college; by 1997, this level had increased to 67 percent. Today, 75 percent say it is very likely they will go to college. Unfortunately, teachers’ confidence that their students will graduate from college is not as high. On average, teachers predict that 63 percent of their students will finish high school ready for college without the need for remedial course work, but only 51 percent believe that their students will earn a postsecondary degree.
The survey also examines attitudes toward some common education reform proposals, including measuring teacher effectiveness, increasing the ability of schools to remove poor-performing teachers, the redesign of the school day and calendar, the expansion of public school choice, and greater assistance for diverse learners. It finds agreement among parents, teachers, and executives that these policy proposals should be priorities, but wide disagreement on which proposals should take precedence. For example, 75 percent of parents and 83 percent of executives say “giving schools more ability to remove teachers who are not serving students well” should be one of the highest priorities in education. Meanwhile, only 39 percent of teachers believe this reform measure should be one of the highest priorities, compared to 41 percent who say schools should be given more ability to remove teachers who are not serving students well, but believe this strategy should be a lower priority.
Part 2 of the survey, Teaching Diverse Learners, was released on March 23 and looks at student differences, how teachers address them, and how well students feel their needs are being met. It finds agreement among teachers (91 percent), business executives (89 percent), and parents (84 percent) that strengthening resources to help diverse learners meet college- and career-readiness standards should be a priority in education. However, the level of priority that these groups would place on this effort varies dramatically; 59 percent of teachers and 57 percent of parents say it “must be done as one of the highest priorities in education,” compared to only 31 percent of executives.
When asked which changes would help them better meet the learning needs of individual students given limited resources, teachers said opportunities for collaborative teaching (65 percent), access to online and technology resources (64 percent), better tools for understanding students’ learning strengths and needs (63 percent), and instructional strategies for teaching English language learners (62 percent) would have a major impact on their ability to address different learning needs of individual students.
The survey also asked students to grade their teachers on how well they teach individual students based on their needs and abilities. Overall, it finds that students assigned teachers a grade of B-, but students who have considered dropping out of school are four times as likely as other students to give their teachers a grade of D or F (45 percent vs. 11 percent). When asked to rate the overall quality of the education they receive, only 26 percent of students rated it as “excellent” while 57 percent said it was “good.”
Both parts of the MetLife survey were featured in a March 25 webinar hosted by the Alliance for Excellent Education. Webinar participants included William R. Hite, Jr., superintendent of Prince George’s County Public Schools (Maryland); Kelly Kovacic, California’s 2010 Teacher of the Year who teachers Advanced Placement U.S. history, Advanced Placement U.S. Government, and a seventh-grade advisory class at The Preuss School, University of California–San Diego; Dana Markow, vice president of youth and education research at Harris Interactive;Susan Traiman, director of public policy at the Business Roundtable; Dennis White, chief executive officer and president of MetLife Foundation, and Alliance President Bob Wise.
During the webinar, participants discussed the survey findings and their implications for shaping educational policies, including key elements in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the nation’s primary federal law governing K–12 education. The webinar also included a question and answer period to address questions submitted by viewers across the nation.
Video for the webinar and links to both parts of the MetLife survey are available at http://media.all4ed.org/webinar-mar-25.