MetLife Teacher Survey Reveals Expectations Gap

The latest research from the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher. includes findings that point to two interesting conclusions: while educators express strong belief in the importance of high expectations and high standards for all students, those standards and expectations fall short in practice for many students. There are also significant gaps in teacher and student perceptions about academic success, particularly evident in schools serving high proportions of low-income students, secondary schools, and between girls and boys.

The second of three reports, Part 2: Student Achievement, from the new MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Collaborating for Student Success, includes the views of teachers, principals, and students on student goals and aspirations, the influence of teacher expectations, and factors educators believe would improve academic success. The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive® by telephone and online in October and November 2009. Released today, key findings in Part 2: Student Achievement include:

Large majorities of teachers and principals believe strongly that high standards and high expectations for all students will improve achievement.

  • Most teachers (86%) believe high expectations for all students would have a major impact on achievement.
  • Teachers (77%) and principals (82%) strongly agree that most teachers in their school hold high standards for all students.
  • Most educators (64% of teachers; 69% of principals) strongly agree that all students need education beyond high school to be prepared for work or a career.

Standards and expectations for all students often are not very high.

  • Fewer teachers and principals in schools with high proportions of low-income students strongly agree that most teachers in their school hold high standards for all students, compared to those in schools with low proportions of such students (teachers: 71% vs. 81%; principals: 78% vs. 91%).
  • Most teachers (84%) believe they can enable all of their students to succeed academically, but only 36% of teachers say that all of their students have the ability to succeed.
  • Half of teachers (51%), including most secondary teachers (71%), say students in their school only do enough work to get by.
  • Teachers expect that an average of 50% of their students will attend a two- or four-year college after high school.

Many students believe their schools and teachers fall short.

  • Over one-third of students (36%), including more boys (41%) than girls (31%), say they only do enough work to get by in school.
  • Just over half (53%) feel strongly that all teachers in their school want them to succeed.
  • Almost half (45%) say students in their school are promoted to the next grade level without being ready.
  • Most students (79%) plan to attend college, but only half of students (55%) feel very confident they will achieve their goals for the future.
  • More girls than boys have aspirations to attend college (85% vs. 73%) and believe they will achieve their goals (59% vs. 50%).

The survey also shows strong agreement among teachers and principals on a range of 14 factors both within and beyond the school that would improve student achievement. Among the most highly rated, by nearly nine in ten educators, are providing all students with core reading, writing, and math skills; having adequate public funding and support for education; and strengthening ties among parents and schools.

The third and final report, Part 3: Teaching as a Career, is slated for release on March 24. Part 3 will examine collaboration in the context of professional growth and career path. Part 1: Effective Teaching and Leadership, released on February 17, looks at if, how, and to what extent collaboration is currently practiced in schools to improve student achievement.

“The annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher is not just about asking, but also about listening,” said Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation. “In this survey, 69% of teachers do not believe their voices are being adequately heard in the current debate on education. We can learn much from those closest to the classroom about working together to increase student success.”

About the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Collaborating for Student Success
MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Collaborating for Student Success (2009) was conducted by Harris Interactive among a national sample of 1,003 public school teachers of grades K through 12, and 500 principals of grades K through 12, by telephone, and 1,018 public school students in grades 3 through 12 online between October 14 and November 13, 2009. The data were weighted to key demographic variables to align with the national population of the respective groups. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. In addition, an online strategy session was conducted on September 15, 2009 among a group of 25 public school teacher leaders, principals, and public education thought leaders to inform the development of the survey.

About MetLife
MetLife is a leading provider of insurance and financial services with operations throughout the United States and the Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions. It has demonstrated its belief in education and contributes to its improvement in part through the sponsorship of the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher series since 1984 to give voice to those closest to the classroom. MetLife Foundation places strong emphasis on education and draws on the findings of the Survey to inform its grantmaking. For more information about MetLife, please visit the company’s Web site at Additional information about the Foundation is available at

The reports for the entire series are now available online at with links to the ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) website:

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries and serves clients in over 215 countries and territories. For more information, please visit


Catherine Portman Topping
Ted Mitchell