Scholastic and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have just released a survey of nearly 10,000 public school teachers titled "Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession". Teachers were asked about their schools and classrooms, about student and teacher performance and about the ways it should be evaluated, supported and rewarded. They shared their honest, professional opinions on everything from the role of standardized tests to teacher tenure, from family involvement to job satisfaction, from digital content to salaries.
- Raising Student Achievement Requires the Work Of Many
– Teachers agree that their primary goal is helping all students learn and achieve, but a hardworking, committed teacher cannot do it alone.
– Other factors that teachers identify as essential to raising student achievement include: family involvement, quality curriculum, and a community of educators and school leaders committed to the success of all students.
- Teaching and Learning Are Too Complex to Be Measured by One Test
– Teachers are clear in their call for multiple measures of student achievement, and they say that standardized tests do not accurately reflect their students’ growth. In fact, we were surprised to learn that only 45% of teachers say their students take such tests seriously. – They also call for more frequent evaluation of their own practice from a variety of sources, including in-class observation, assessment of student work, and performance reviews from principals, peers and even students.
– Teachers are open to tenure reform, including regular reevaluation of tenured teachers and requiring more years of experience before tenure is granted. On average, teachers say that tenure should be granted after 5.4 years of teaching, more than the typical two to three years in most states today.
- Challenges Facing America’s Schools Are Significant and Growing
Teachers are concerned about their students’ academic preparedness. They tell us that, on average, only 63% of their students could leave high school prepared to succeed in college.
When we asked veteran teachers to identify what is changing in their classrooms, they told us:
– Academic challenges are growing. Veteran teachers see more students struggling with reading and math today than they did when they began teaching in their current schools.
– Populations of students who require special in-school services are growing as well. Veteran teachers report increasing numbers of students living in poverty, students who are hungry and homeless, and students who have behavioral issues.
- School and Community Supports Are Essential to Keeping Good Teachers in the Classroom
When asked to identify the factors that most impact teacher retention, teachers agree that monetary rewards like higher salaries or merit pay are less important than other factors
– though some of these factors require additional funding – including strong school leaders, family involvement, high-quality curriculum and resources, and in-school support personnel.
Here are some of the interesting highlights from the survey, but be sure to check it all out yourself below.
Teachers work long hours
Teachers work, on average 53 hours a week, or 10 hours and 40 minutes a day.
Of the time during the required school day, here is how teachers reported it being spent
The survey has lots of information, including how teachers like to and would prefer not to, spend their time.
The graph below shows how teachers feel about class sizes (hint: they think it is very important)
And what do teachers think impact student achievement? (this one's a bit harder to read, but you can see it in large size in the document below). Common core appears at the bottom, family involvement at the top
On student assessments, teachers are in serious disagreement with current reform trends that lean heavily on standardized testing to measure student achievement.
Moving on to more contentious issues, reformers should take note - teachers could be your allies if you ever decide to collaborate. Higher salaries are viewed poisitively, but pay for performance is not seen as an important or driving force
But higher salaries fall well down the list of important issues for improving teacher retention. Parental involvement and quality leadership top the list
Finally, on tenure. Teachers do not think tenure ought to be automatic, or bad teachers protected by it. There should be a lot of opportunity for reformers and educators to collaborate in this area.