Analysis of Teachers' Concerns in Selected Alabama Public Schools

Article excerpt

Teachers are held accountable for their students' success, yet they generally do not control the curricular decision-making process that affects students' performance. This study sought to ascertain K-12 public school teachers' concerns about five factors that impact curriculum, supervision and instruction: Administration; Collaboration; Work Conditions; Classroom Management, and Commitment to Teaching. A random sample of 250 teachers representing 11 school systems and 22 schools was selected to participate in the study. A two-part questionnaire was designed, pilot tested and used to collect data. The results reflected significant differences in three factors--trust in administration, collaboration, and commitment to teaching. The investigator concluded that finding solutions to educational problems must begin with dialogue with teachers.

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Accountability is the catchword of the continuing movement of education reform. Teachers are held accountable for their students' success, yet they generally do not control the curricular decision-making process that affects students' performance. Referring to the lack of teacher input into decision-making in school matters, Boyer (1988) stated that teachers are "generally bypassed" in the decision-making process. More recently, demonstrating that teachers continue to lack empowerment, Ingersoll (2002) stated that in comparison to their counterparts in Canada, American teachers have far less say in school operations. He contended that U. S. school administrators reserve decisions about school operations for themselves, to the great frustration of their teachers who have to live with, and often are blamed for, the consequences. Earlier, Sergiovanni and Starratt (1998) also contended that, "American education has long labored under the mistaken notion that leadership is something for administrators to exercise, not teachers." They pointed out that too often teachers are seen as "subordinates in a hierarchically arranged system" and, as subordinates, are not deemed trustworthy.

It is no surprise, then, that teachers have grave concerns about curricular and instructional matters. This investigator believes that although teachers have many concerns about curricular and instructional issues, teachers' concerns vary according to their level of experience. Glickman, Gordon, & Ross-Gordon (2004) found that teachers at different levels of experience tend to focus their concerns on different instructional matters. In earlier studies, Veenman (1984) found that classroom discipline ranked number one as the most frequently perceived problem of beginning teachers. Ingersoll (2002) pointed out that 33% of the newly hired teachers leave the profession altogether in the first three years, and 46% in the first five years. He also added that the best and the brightest among the newly hired are often the first to leave.

Glickman, Gordon, & Ross-Gordon (2004) indicated that teachers who are more highly developed tend to be concerned with the teaching environment and teaching responsibilities. With regard to the environment, Ingersoll (2002) discovered in his research, that 43% of teachers leaving the profession out of dissatisfaction cited inadequate support from school administration. Kauffman, Johnson, Kardos, Liu, and Peske (2002) surmised that many new teachers who may leave teaching prematurely because of the overwhelming nature of the work and the pain of failing in the classroom could have succeeded with more support. In Ingersoll's research, 25% of teachers leaving the profession out of dissatisfaction cited student misbehavior as the main reason for leaving.

Concerning responsibilities, Ingersoll found that some teachers leave the profession dissatisfied because of their failure to have more participation in key school decisions that impact their job. Stronge (2002) encouraged administrators to promote collaborative climates because such climates "create positive working relationships and help retain teachers. …