Skip Navigation
small NCES header image
Status of Education in Rural America
NCES 2007-040
June 2007

3.9. Teacher perceptions of problems in schools


In general, smaller percentages of rural public school teachers reported problems as "serious" and behavioral problems as frequent in their schools than public school teachers across the nation as a whole in 2003–04.

Serious problems in schools

In the 2003–04 school year, the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) asked public elementary, middle, and high school teachers to rate the severity of eight potential problems in their school: students coming to school unprepared to learn, lack of parental involvement, poverty, student apathy, student tardiness, student class cutting, students dropping out, and student pregnancy. Teachers were asked to rate them as "not a problem," a "minor problem," a "moderate problem," or a "serious problem." This analysis examines the percentage of public school teachers who reported each of these potential problems as a "serious problem" in their school.

Nationally, public school teachers reported students coming to school unprepared to learn as the most prevalent serious problem facing public schools, with 27 percent of public school teachers reporting this as a serious problem in their school (table 3.9a). Lack of parental involvement and poverty were the next most common problems reported as serious (22 and 21 percent, respectively), followed by student apathy (17 percent), student tardiness (14 percent), student class cutting (6 percent), students dropping out (3 percent), and student pregnancy (2 percent). In rural areas, the relative ranking of these problems by public school teachers mirrored this national order. However, for each potential problem (except apathy and student pregnancy), the percentage of rural public school teachers who considered the problem serious was lower than the national percentage.

For each of the potential problems, a smaller percentage of public school teachers in rural areas than in cities and towns reported it as being a serious problem, with the one exception that there was no measurable difference between the percentages of teachers in rural areas and towns rating a lack of parental involvement as a serious problem (table 3.9a and figure 3.9a).1 The percentages of teachers in rural areas who reported that poverty, student tardiness, and student class cutting were serious problems differed from those in suburban areas. A greater percentage of rural teachers than suburban teachers reported poverty as a serious problem (18 vs. 15 percent), but a smaller percentage of rural teachers than suburban teachers reported student tardiness (9 vs. 12 percent) and student class cutting (3 vs. 4 percent) as serious problems.

Among all rural public school teachers, a higher percentage of high school teachers than middle school teachers rated each of these problems (except poverty) as serious. In rural areas there were no measurable differences in the ratings for poverty across all three school levels.

Behavioral problems

The 2003–04 SASS also asked public elementary, middle, and high school teachers to report how often the following student behavioral problems occurred in their schools: student acts of disrespect for teachers, student bullying, physical conflicts among students, student verbal abuse of teachers, and widespread disorder in classrooms. This analysis examines the percentages of teachers who reported that the problem "happens daily" or "happens at least once a week" (other possible responses were "happens at least once a month," "happens on occasion," and "never happens").

Nationally, public school teachers reported student acts of disrespect for teachers as the most common of these behavioral problems (reported as a daily or weekly problem in their school by 22 percent of teachers), followed by student bullying (18 percent), physical conflicts among students and student verbal abuse of teachers (12 percent each), and widespread disorder in classrooms (5 percent) (table 3.9b). The relative ranking of these problems by rural public school teachers closely mirrored the national order, with the one exception being that student verbal abuse of teachers was more commonly reported than physical conflicts between students (8 vs. 7 percent). However, as with the serious problems presented in table 3.7a, all the behavioral problem areas were less commonly reported in rural areas than in the nation as a whole.

Each of the student behavior problems was reported at lower rates by public school teachers in rural areas than in cities (table 3.9b and figure 3.9b). Other differences between locales were smaller, with rural public school teachers reporting physical conflicts among students as less frequent than teachers in both towns and suburban areas (7 vs. 9 and 11 percent, respectively). Also, rural public school teachers reported student bullying as less frequent than teachers in towns (15 vs. 17 percent), and rural teachers reported student acts of disrespect (17 vs. 19 percent), student verbal abuse of teachers (8 vs. 10 percent), and widespread disorder in classrooms (3 vs. 4 percent) as less frequent than suburban public school teachers.

The findings for each of the school levels (elementary, middle, and high schools) were similar to the findings for all schools. At all three levels student behavior problems were reported at lower rates by public school teachers in rural areas than in cities. The only additional differences noted at the elementary school level were that physical conflicts were reported as less frequent by public elementary school teachers in rural areas than in towns and suburbs (8 vs. 11 and 12 percent, respectively). At the middle school level, rural public school teachers less frequently reported both physical conflicts (8 vs. 13 percent) and widespread disorder (3 vs. 5 percent) than their peers in suburban areas. At the high school level, rural public school teachers reported each of the selected problems as less frequent than their peers in each of the other locales, with the lone exception being that no measurable difference was detected in the reports on physical conflicts in rural areas and towns.

Across school levels, the percentage of rural public elementary school teachers reporting these student behaviors was generally lower than the percentages of rural public middle or high school teachers, with a few exceptions (see table 3.9b). No measurable differences were detected between rural public elementary and middle school teachers' reports of physical conflicts among students and widespread disorder in classrooms, and rural public elementary school teachers reported physical conflicts between students as more frequent than their high school peers. While no measurable differences were noted between rural public middle and high school teachers' reports of student acts of disrespect for teachers, student verbal abuse of teachers, and widespread disorder in classrooms, rural public middle school teachers reported student bullying and physical conflicts as more frequent than their high school peers.

Teaching conditions

The 2003–04 SASS asked public elementary, middle, and high school teachers about their level of agreement with five positive statements regarding teachers' salaries, the availability of necessary materials, parental support, class size, and support for special needs students. This analysis examines the percentage of teachers who said that they "strongly agree" or "somewhat agree" with these statements (other response choices were "somewhat disagree" and "strongly disagree").

Nationally, 79 percent of public school teachers agreed with the statement that "necessary materials such as textbooks, supplies, and copy machines are available as needed by the staff" at their schools (table 3.9c). A majority of teachers also responded positively to the following statements: "I am satisfied with my class size" (69 percent), "I am given the support I need to teach students with special needs" (64 percent), and "I receive a great deal of support from parents for the work I do" (61 percent). Less than half of teachers (46 percent) agreed with the statement "I am satisfied with my teaching salary."

Among rural public school teachers, agreement with these statements followed the same order as the national ranking, although the percentages were different. The percentages of rural public school teachers who agreed with these statements about their school's teaching conditions (excluding their teaching salary) was greater than the national percentage and the percentages of teachers in cities and suburbs (table 3.9c and figure 3.9c). Larger percentages of teachers in rural areas than towns agreed with the statements about parental support (66 vs. 61 percent) and class size (75 vs. 72 percent), but no measurable differences were noted between their rates of agreement with the statements about necessary materials and special needs support.

The percentage of public school teachers who reported being satisfied with their teaching salaries in rural areas (44 percent) was lower than in suburban areas (50 percent), but was not measurably different from the percentages of public school teachers in cities (43 percent) and towns (46 percent). These same comparisons held true within each school level, with one exception: no measurable difference was detected between the percentages of rural and suburban middle school teachers who reported being satisfied with their teaching salary.

Top


1 For the problems of students dropping out and student pregnancy, comparisons are made only among public school teachers at the high school level. The percentages of public elementary and middle school teachers reporting these problems as serious were not measurable due to low frequencies and high standard errors.

Would you like to help us improve our products and website by taking a short survey?

YES, I would like to take the survey

or

No Thanks

The survey consists of a few short questions and takes less than one minute to complete.