Nearly half of Prince George's County public school educators, citing low pay, high stress, large classes and disciplinary problems, are "seriously considering leaving the teaching profession," according to the results of an extensive survey released yesterday.
The survey, conducted by the Prince George's Educators Association, underscores severe morale problems among teachers and administrators in the 105,000-pupil school system, union leaders and school board officials agreed.
Among the most distressing, they said, was the fact that nearly 48 percent of the 4,350 educators responding to the survey want out of the profession.
Those answering the two-page questionnaire represented 70 percent of those who received them, a statistically impressive sample, according to officials.
Paul Pinsky, president of the 6,000-member association that represents teachers in contract negotiations, said the results bode ill for the system.
"It reflects a growing problem the county is going to face in getting teachers to come to this county and retaining them," he said.
School Supterintendent John A. Murphy, who had urged teachers to cooperate with the study, said the results illustrating widespread disillusionment among educators are "consistent with national figures. It's been distressing to us for some time" that teachers are dissatisfied.
He said class sizes and per pupil expenditures are "demoralizing" to teachers.
Among those responding to the survey:
* 70 percent said they have suffered from verbal abuse during the past year; 21 percent reported incidents of physical abuse by students.
* 38 percent said discipline problems affected their teaching to a "great extent."
* 22 percent have received professional counseling or medical attention because of job-related stress during the last year.
* 60 percent said they spend eight hours or more each week doing classroom work at home.
* 40 percent said that textbooks provided by the county are inadequate.
Rowland Hoke is a middle school teacher with 15 years in the county system who is considering getting out.
Hoke, 39, teaches at the Charles Carroll Middle School in New Carrollton by day and is a first-year George Washington University law student by night.
"For me it's for options down the line," he said of his graduate work. Hoke said he watches the student teachers from area colleges come and go each year. Many are willing to get their classroom training in Prince George's County schools, he said, but after they graduate they take better-paying jobs in Montgomery, Anne Arundel or Fairfax counties.
"Other counties have higher starting salaries and the student teachers perceive that they have "fewer problems," said Hoke. There is a difference, he said, between "stress at $18,000 a year and stress at $15,000 a year."
Association president Pinsky said that teacher quality suffers when working conditions deteriorate. "We hear it in the faculty rooms," Pinsky said. "People are frustrated, tired."
The Maryland State Teachers Association and the National Education Association helped formulate questions and collate answers for the survey, Pinsky said.
"We didn't do this to be naysayers . . . to try to cut down the school system," Pinsky said at a news conference yesterday. "But you really can't speak about the problem if you don't do the research."
Carl D. McMillen, the county's personnel director, said that 8 percent of county teachers usually leave their jobs each year because of retirement and other reasons, a figure that has decreased from the 15 percent average attrition rate recorded in the 1960s. More than 400 teaching positions must be filled before the next school year begins, school and union officials said yesterday.