The Importance of Hearing from Teachers Around the World

A sweeping majority of secondary school teachers in the U.S. report that they are satisfied with their jobs — that is one of the main takeaways from a new survey, called the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS). The survey provides a unique opportunity to hear from U.S. teachers and to compare the views of educators in this country with those from educators around the globe.

According to the report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 89 percent of U.S. teachers are satisfied with their job – nearly the same as the international average of 91 percent. According to the survey, which reflects self-report by “lower secondary” teachers (grades 7, 8 and 9 in the United States), 84 percent of U.S. teachers surveyed stated that they’d choose teaching if they could decide on a career path again. This positive response is higher than the average (78 percent) for other TALIS countries.

In 2013, TALIS surveyed more than 100,000 lower secondary teachers and principals in 34 education systems around the world, asking them for their views on job satisfaction, working and classroom conditions, professional development, teacher appraisal, and more.

Unfortunately, while U.S. teachers and principals are positive about their jobs, their optimism doesn’t extend to believing that society values their work. Only one-third of U.S. lower secondary teachers believe the teaching profession is valued in U.S. society, which is slightly above the TALIS average, but well below other high-performing education systems. In Singapore, 68 percent of teachers believe their society values their profession; in Korea, 67 percent do; and in Finland, 59 percent feel that way.

TALIS shows highs and lows in the area of teacher training and professional development as well. Lower secondary teachers in the U.S. report higher-than-average levels of education and participation rates in professional development (PD), but they are less positive about the impact of PD. For example, nearly all U.S. lower secondary teachers have completed higher education. And, 84 percent of U.S. teachers report that they attend courses or workshops, compared with the TALIS average of 71 percent. But in every PD content category, U.S. lower secondary teachers are less likely to report a moderate or large impact on their teaching.

TALIS also shows that U.S. lower secondary teachers tend to work independently, with 42 percent of teachers reporting that they never engage in joint activities across classes and age groups. Half of U.S. teachers report that they never observe another teacher’s classes or provide feedback to peers.

TALIS presents an opportunity for teachers, principals, policymakers and others to delve more deeply into data that can be beneficial in the effort to support and elevate the teaching profession in this country.

Engaging with teachers in discussions on teacher leadership through new initiatives like Teach to Lead and the Department of Education’s RESPECT (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching) project are important parts of the effort to make teaching a valued and respected profession on par with medicine, law, and engineering in this country. It’s our hope that the next TALIS survey, which will be conducted in 2018, shows even further increases in teacher satisfaction, collaboration, and their perception about the value of their critical profession.

For more information, please see TALIS data tables at NCES, the OECD’s U.S. country report, and the OECD’s international report.

Maureen McLaughlin is senior advisor to the Secretary and director of international affairs and Curtis Valentine is a Council on Foreign Relations fellow working with the International Affairs Office.


  1. Many good teachers have lost their jobs only to be replaced by inferior, politically correct teachers.

    To be fair, balanced and equitable, the input of discharged, underutilized and unemployed teachers needs to be considered and evaluated.

    Many will certainly speak of the unfairness of the system, the idiotic rules and policies as well as unending dictatorial constraints on the real education of students.

  2. You left out some important information about this survey:
    “because of the low U.S. response rate, the U.S. data are shown separately from the other participating education systems that achieved acceptable response rates,
    not included in international averages, and
    not included in any of the indices created for and reported in the international TALIS database available from the OECD and reported in the OECD’s TALIS 2013 report.

    The following tables are a subset of those published in the OECD’s TALIS 2013 report. These data tables have been reviewed by NCES and are being presented here to provide interested readers with a preview of the kinds of data available for secondary analysis. However, readers and data users are cautioned that the U.S. TALIS 2013 data may require confirmation of the estimates using other data sources, such as the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), when possible,
    urged to take note of the potential for bias in estimates using the U.S. TALIS data file with the included weights when conducting complex statistical techniques, and
    encouraged to make it clear in all analyses and presentations of TALIS data that the United States did not meet the international participation rate standards.” (From here:

    The data looks great, it really really does – but TALIS itself acknowledges that the low participation rate gave too small a sample and thus didn’t even include the US in their international averages.

    Please, if you’re going to insist on being “data-driven,” let’s use the data with integrity.

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