Why do we lose good teachers from our nation’s public school classrooms? The biggest reason may be because they are not getting enough support for students who need additional resources. Too often, they are struggling alone to help move these students forward.

So say teachers in a 2012 survey released by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. According to Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession, ensuring more help for struggling students was cited most often as a factor that is “absolutely essential” to retaining good teachers. Higher salaries, more autonomy, and greater decision-making roles within their schools were also considered very important factors for keeping teachers in the profession.

While a full 75 percent of teachers feel that higher salaries are very important to the future of the profession, it is the heavy load that many teachers carry that puts them at greatest risk of leaving the classroom for good. “We have larger classes, more behavioral problems, more special education students, limited technology, and no teacher aides,” one middle school teacher said, “It’s not easy, but I do it. I’m not sure how much longer I can do it though.”

Other teachers spoke of the exhaustion that comes from trying to be all things to all kids. “We are working so hard to be the educator, social worker, and therapist to all these children and it’s leading to burnout.”

Not surprisingly, teachers who reported dissatisfaction with their careers were more likely to report a need for more resources: 84 percent called for more resources for children with behavioral issues and 74 percent needed more help for special education students.

But even among self-described “satisfied” teachers, the need for more school resources was notable. Just over half of satisfied teachers called for more help with special education students and students in poverty. And almost two out of three reported a need for more guidance and assistance with behavior issues.

The 2012 Primary Sources report identifies three major types of support teachers need: increased school staffing (psychologists, learning specialists, and aides); material resources such as technology and classroom materials; and the cooperation and support of parents and the wider community.

“Having the resources to effectively teach and empower all students,” one elementary teacher surveyed wrote, “is the greatest gift a teacher can receive.”

About Primary Sources
Now in its fourth year, Primary Sources surveyed 10,000 educators from all 50 states to learn firsthand how teachers perceive their classrooms, their profession, and the future of education. To download the complete Primary Sources report or take the survey, visit the Primary Sources website.

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