Magazine article District Administration

Taking the Pulse of the Teaching Profession: Giving Teachers a Stronger Voice Could Reverse Troubling Job Satisfaction Trends

Magazine article District Administration

Taking the Pulse of the Teaching Profession: Giving Teachers a Stronger Voice Could Reverse Troubling Job Satisfaction Trends

Article excerpt

One of the more telling results of your survey was that teachers don't feel their opinions are considered.

Right. Close to half feel that they aren't heard at their school level. They don't feel their opinions or thoughts are being considered in different policy decisions.

People outside education seem to have an inordinate amount of power over what goes on in the classroom.

Education, certainly in the last 20 or 30 years, has become much more politicized and the end result is that you have state legislators weighing in on matters. You have many governors playing a much more active role.

I've worked in Washington since 1985, so I've seen the change in the federal role--from when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization didn't even rate a mention in The Washington Post, to where No Child Left Behind brought weekly updates.

It's good that people are concerned about the quality of education. But on the downside it has given more power to the policymakers and less to the teachers.

Is that why the survey also reports a declining enthusiasm for the profession?

When you've done a job for a number of years, many teachers lose their enthusiasm. We did a cross tabulation of those respondents who feel their voices are heard and those who don't and how they answer the enthusiasm question.

I think it's telling that if you feel that you have a stake in decision-making at the school building level you are likely to be happier in your job and express more optimism than if you feel that things are being done to you.

Was there any result that proved opposite of your pre-survey perceptions?

When it came to testing, we asked which test they'd want to keep or eliminate. I really thought we'd see very strong majorities of teachers saying, "Get rid of the state tests. Get rid of the district tests." But when you look at those results, about 63 percent want to keep them but reduce the frequency or duration of the tests. And then there were another 10 to 15 percent who want to keep things as they are. I really thought we'd see the majority of teachers saying get rid of them.

The takeaway is that teachers see some value to statewide and district tests. They just think it's way too much, way too often.

The survey also shows teachers think too much time is spent preparing for tests. Right. There's more data that we're going to report that looks more closely at that question--like type of school and poverty level and so on. With the elementary kids it's not only the content, but teaching them how to take a test and not to be nervous about taking a test and making them feel comfortable in that environment.

But, again, I think the message teachers are sending is: Let's just not test as much as we do. These tests are of some value, but they don't need to be as long or as frequent. So, we might see testing every other year or tests being shorter. Or perhaps using the interim tests throughout the school year and then adding those up for a final score, rather than interim tests and then a big final. I think there are solutions out there, and teachers definitely should be part of the discussion because they're dealing with it every day.

A majority of teachers said they were evaluated based on student test scores. Did they object to that?

When you read the open-ended comments, you clearly see this is an area where they wanted to vent. They'd say, "So much rides on this test for my future." Some teachers were very concerned.

I think one troubling thing our survey shows is that the feedback teachers are getting is not all that helpful. If they were getting this valuable feedback that was really informing their practice and making them better teachers, then maybe it might be worth it.

Regardless of whether test scores are included, it seems that evaluation systems need to be rethought so that they are helping teachers do their jobs better. …

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