Approximately 88 percent of teachers polled in a new national survey cite poverty as a major educational barrier.
The poll of 700 public elementary and secondary teachers was released on Tuesday by Communities In Schools. The polling firm Public Opinion Strategies conducted the poll for the 501(c)(3) group from May 8 to 12.
In addition to poverty, the teachers surveyed also cited insufficient involvement by parents, apathy on the part of students and too much standardized testing as huge educational problems.
Vast majorities of teachers cited disruptive behavior (92 percent), chronic absenteeism (89 percent) and students’ ill health (85 percent) as barriers to education as well.
It’s not clear if the possibility of ineffective teaching or inferior curricula were poll options for teachers to select.
“As we have found with most polls of teachers, they expressed concern about too much testing, student apathy and lack of parental engagement as general problems in schools today,” said Robert Blizzard of Public Opinion Strategies said in a press release sent to The Daily Caller. “But what was striking is that when asked to identify and rank serious problems in their local schools, poverty became a major theme.”
The 700-teacher poll also found that 91 percent of teachers spend part of their own income on school supplies.
Teachers say they frequently and generously spend their own money and their free time to help needy students in other ways as well.
Additionally, more than 50 percent say they have spent their own money to provide food for students or to assist a student or the student’s family in a crisis. Just under 50 percent say they have provided a student with clothes or shoes. Just under 30 percent say they have helped a student obtain medical attention.
America’s teachers also claim to spend fully 20 percent of their time during school hours assisting students with problems they face outside the classroom.
“Twenty percent is the equivalent of one day a week or four days a month, or, extrapolated out, roughly two and a half to three years out of a child’s 12-year career,” Communities In Schools spokesman Dan Fuller said. “This is time that teachers are addressing the needs of a few students at the expense of an entire classroom. Clearly poverty is an issue that impacts all students.”
As far as solutions to combat these many poverty-related educational barriers, the teachers surveyed overwhelmingly said they favor a new layer of bureaucracy in the form of a full-time administrator who would work inside taxpayer-funded schools to solve non-academic problems for low-income students and their family members. (RELATED: Madison, Wisconsin Schools Seek To Take Over Routine Childcare Tasks From Poor Parents)