The Challenges for School Leadership
Today’s MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, The Challenges for School Leadership, paints a stark picture of the difficulties facing today’s teachers and principals. At some point we have to wonder why they all don’t just throw up their hands a walk out the door! In the wake of years of teacher bashing, principal and teacher job satisfaction has plummeted to a twenty-seven year low. A majority of teachers report that they feel significant stress several days a week, and three quarters of all principals report that their job has become too complex to manage. This news comes on the heels of last year’s survey, which reported that a steadily growing number of teachers expect to leave the classroom in the next five years because of inadequate support and deteriorating teaching conditions.
Teachers and principals are working to meet ever increasing expectations for improved student performance despite budget cuts – year after year – that undermine their ability to sustain a culture of success in their schools. And now, with the introduction of the Common Core State Standards, teachers and school leaders are being called on to reach an even higher bar that can only be met by investing in strong professional collaboration to create new curriculum and instructional strategies.
The burden of these conditions is heaviest in schools serving low-income students and children of color. As a nation we say that we are committed to equity and excellence, but the schools we provide for some children say otherwise. We know that public schools can work, and that in many communities they are providing a world-class education. But we cannot be content as long as so many students, teachers and school leaders are struggling in unacceptable conditions. We have made progress on setting high standards, but so far, most of the high-stakes consequences for failing to meet those standards are falling on the shoulders of educators and children who are not being given the opportunity to meet them.
To change this picture, we must overcome finger-pointing by forging a strong chain of support and political will. We must commit ourselves to placing our best teachers and principals in schools with the greatest need, and once they are there, back and reward their efforts to build a culture of success that genuinely prepares students for college, careers and life in a global innovation economy.
We all have a stake in more effective teaching, stronger school leadership, and deeper learning for every child. In the final analysis, we are betting the future of this country on the quality of our schools. The shape of that future is ours to decide. The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher is a call to action.