Who will listen to the teachers?
Scholastic and the Gates Foundation just released an opinion survey of more than 40,000 public school teachers, called “Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on America’s Schools.” Some interesting findings:
—Only 38 percent of high school teachers believe that three-quarters of the students in their classes could be successful at even a two-year college.
—Almost half of teachers say they are willing to have parent-teacher conferences in their students’ homes. But how many actually have? I bet that number is closer to 1 percent, if that high.
—Only 27 percent of teachers said that state standardized tests are essential or very important to measuring students’ academic achievement, while 92 percent said so about ongoing assessment during class. They gave more credit even to data from software programs than to state test results.
—As for accurate measures of their own performance, they rate nearly everything higher than the results of standardized tests—though “student growth” ranks highly, and it is not clear how that differs from test results. Maybe that refers to the results of class assessments? No surprise, teachers put more stock in “self-evaluation” (huh?) than principal observations. They aren’t optimistic about pay tied to student achievement, either as a way to retain students or help them do better.
—When it comes to keeping them in their jobs, teachers say higher salaries are not as important as supportive leadership, collaboration time, relevant professional development, high-quality curriculum and even clean and safe buildings.
A survey of this magnitude is a huge effort. I personally love to see what real-life practitioners think about their jobs and the policies that affect them, and it is great to hear from the teachers themselves, because too often union positions are taken as a proxy for the entire profession. But I don’t think the people who have the reins right now in making and setting opinions on education policy pay much mind to teachers’ perspective, and I doubt they will start now.