An overwhelming majority of first-year teachers think many of their students are too weighed down with outside problems to do well in school, a survey found.
A majority - 58 percent - also felt that even the best teachers would find it tough to teach effectively more than two-thirds of their pupils, according to the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. survey of beginning public-school teachers. The findings were released Sunday.The teachers were questioned in July and August of 1990 before the start of their first school year, and a second time last spring.
Seventy-five percent initially agreed that "many children come to school with so many problems that it's very difficult for them to be good students." After a year in class, 89 percent held that view.
The survey of 1,007 teachers cast fresh doubt on the likelihood of reaching six educational goals agreed upon two years ago by President Bush and the nation's governors. The first aims at ensuring that all children arrive at school "ready to learn."
The telephone survey, conducted by Louis Harris and Associates, had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
The sample was drawn from a list of 1990 teacher college graduates compiled by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
Looking back on their first year, 46 percent said they could have used help from an experienced teacher, and 51 percent favored smaller classes and better school supplies.
"New teachers are not getting the help they need," said Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers. "New teachers want feedback from someone who knows the ropes."
Among other findings:
- Both before and after their first year, some 98 percent stressed the importance of working well with parents. But seven out of ten complained that many parents treat schools and teachers as "adversaries."
- Before their first teaching experience, 98 percent said they expected their principal to "create an environment which will help my students learn." After a year of teaching, 87 percent said their principal actually did so.
- Sixty percent initially agreed that teachers are respected. Fifty-seven percent felt that way after a year's experience.
- Fewer supported the idea of national teacher testing after a year of experience: 57 percent versus 66 percent.