Behavior issues that interfere with teaching and learning have notably worsened, according to an astonishing 62 percent of teachers who have been teaching in the same school for five or more years. The results were reported in Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession. The report, recently released by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, shows that the increased level of behavior problems has been seen across grade levels: 68 percent of elementary teachers, 64 percent of middle school teachers, and 53 percent of high school teachers say the same.

The problem affects the whole classroom. Behavior problems distract other students from learning and require teachers to spend precious instruction time on discipline and behavior management. Over half of teachers wish they could spend fewer school day minutes on discipline.

One elementary educator defined the problem this way: “The time it takes to referee fights and solve bullying issues takes away from academic instruction and keeps students from achieving as much as they could.”

Concern about behavior issues was not limited to any particular demographic group. While teachers who worked in schools in low-income areas reported concerns about behavioral issues at a higher rate (65%), teachers who worked in high-income areas were not far behind. In high-income areas, 56 percent of teachers reported more behavioral issues that interfere with teaching and learning.

Teachers are committed to helping all their students succeed, including those with behavioral issues. They say, however, that they need help. Overall, 64 percent of teachers say that they need more professional development and training to meet the needs of students with behavioral issues, while 72 percent need more tangible school resources. ‘We have no resources available,” reported one middle school teacher. “No school counselors or social workers. A great deal of my time is spent trying to create an environment where students feel safe.”

Primary Sources surveyed 10,000 educators from all 50 states to learn first-hand how teachers perceive their classrooms, their profession, and the future of education.

To read a summary of the Primary Sources: 2012 findings or to download the full report, visit the Primary Sources website.

Teachers: Have you seen behavior issues increasing in your classroom or school? Do you need more professional development or school resources to help? What kind? Join the conversation and take the poll at Scholastic Teachers on Facebook!