Little teacher support for some Obama school-reform strategies

Teachers are skeptical about several of the major reform ideas the Obama administration and education activists are pushing to turn around the nation’s struggling schools, a new survey commissioned by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has found. (Disclosure: the Gates Foundation is among the many funders of The Hechinger Report.)

Fewer than a third of teachers believe reforms like longer school days or years and merit pay for teachers will improve student achievement, the survey found. Under half of those surveyed believe common assessments across all states will help. Common standards also ranked low on the list of reforms that teachers see as important.

All of these strategies have been key requirements in two major reform pushes by the federal government, the Race to the Top competition and the School Improvement Grant program. The federal government has invested billions of dollars in these reform efforts.

The strategy supported by the greatest number of teachers is increasing “family involvement and support.” Eighty-four percent of teachers say that would have a “very strong impact”—and 14 percent say it’d have a “strong impact”—on student achievement. High expectations, effective and engaged principals and fewer students in each class are other strategies supported by a large majority of teachers.

More than 10,000 public-school teachers, from pre-k to 12th grade, completed the online survey last summer. Respondents received a Scholastic gift certificate in exchange for participating, and the results were weighted to be nationally representative of the U.S. teaching force. Teachers reported, on average, a workday of 10 hours and 40 minutes. Roughly two-thirds of that time is spent at school during required hours, while the other third—or more than three hours daily—consists of working at home or at school after-hours.

The survey results overlap with the findings of another teacher survey published recently, the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher. In both surveys, teachers reported that more of their students are dealing with hunger and homelessness. Both surveys also found that fewer than half of teachers are “highly” or “very” satisfied with their jobs.

Despite apparent skepticism around some of the Obama administration’s reform strategies, teachers appear to approve of the recent national focus on overhauling teacher evaluations, albeit with some caveats. Eighty-five percent of teachers questioned in the Scholastic/Gates survey support the use of student academic growth to evaluate their job performance. Nevertheless, only a quarter of teachers believe standardized tests are “an accurate reflection of student achievement,” suggesting that teachers are unlikely to support the complicated statistical models that many states are adopting to measure teacher performance based on student standardized test-results.

In addition, teachers seem wary of another increasingly popular strategy for evaluating teachers: principal observations. Although teachers appear to welcome more frequent principal observations—95 percent say these should happen annually—fewer than a third think that principal observations should count for a lot in their evaluations.

Teachers instead seem to want more varied and intense evaluations than reformers are calling for. They would like to have more self-assessments, peer reviews and evaluations by their department chairs. The survey results also show widespread support of teacher tenure, which has come under attack from politicians in some states. Still, the survey suggests that many teachers might accept changes to how tenure is currently granted: Nearly 90 percent say tenure “should reflect evaluations of teacher effectiveness,” and even more say “that tenure should not protect ineffective teachers.”


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Peter Hechinger

As the article notes, both the Gates and MetLife Surveys, found that “fewer than half of teachers are ‘highly’ or ‘very’ satisfied with their jobs. The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Teachers, Parents and the Economy, however, also found a dramatic 15% drop in the number of teachers “very satisfied” in just two years, since the question was last asked in 2009 (along with a 10% drop in the percentage of “somewhat satisfied” teachers). This is the lowest level of teacher satisfaction measured by the annul MetLife Survey in over two decades. That would also seem significant data to report as potentially significant regarding teacher reaction to Obama administration reforms.

nuff said

Could it be little billy gates is trying to put the Kraken back in its lair after releasing all nhell on Teachers nationwide. Maybe he found not all Billionaires have good intentions and most are just greedy bast—ds looking to loot education dollars . Well Bill you are not doing enough. It is time to expose the carpetbaggers for what they are and only your money and influence can drown out theirs. You are morally obligated to correct the wrong that you created.–now get off the pot and fix it–ps you owe Teachers an apology

a better way

I’d be happy to only work 50 hours. In my low performing NYC public school, I often stay till 6pm and work on weekends. With the relentless pressure from our principals and our mayor, our heads are never too far from the hatchet. It all stems from from the federal DOE’s relentless push for results in nearly impossible situations with little real support. We get pushed to waste our time in pd when we need to be grading work and improving lesson plans.

Teachers are willing to work without all the incentives. What I, and I feel many other educators feel, is that there is no support. Instead of support there is a witch hunt so the politicians and corporate ed-heads, can find someone to blame for the students’ problems without real solutions.

Kids who can’t read and do basic math when they hit middle or high schools, should be placed in small group settings like a Wilson reading program and given the chance to get the skills they need before it’s too late.

Most of my kids families are barely making it in New York. Their time, energy and ability to support their kids educational progress is very limited

Frances Zimmerman

It’s not just teachers who are discontent: I can tell you that fewer than half of people in this country are also “highly” or “very” satisfied with the job being done to educate our children in public schools. Dis-ease with the status quo is general over the USofA.

Teachers work 10 hours and 40 minutes a day? So do most other professionals, and they get less vacation than teachers but better pay. When teacher training and evaluation is improved, we must pay teachers more. Tenure is a union obstacle to proper staffing of schools according to their needs; pay teachers more and employ them at-will.

Smaller classrooms, longer school days and longer school years benefit kids. Teacher oversight/evaluation from an excellent principal, peers and community would improve instruction and enhance the sense that education is a shared enterprise. Unions work to undermine teachers’ acknowledgment that a school principal is the both the lead teacher and the boss.

Serious programs to inform and educate parents about the demands of school life — what an old friend and excellent teacher called “the culture of school” — would be helpful to everyone — educators, parents and kids.

The “value-added” notion of teacher assessment based on kids’ standardized test scores is full of holes and doesn’t work — and needless to say public-shaming of teachers by printing their “effectiveness” ratings is profoundly counter-productive and cruel.

But just as student test scores matter as a measure of child’s annual academic progress, so a teacher’s classroom performance also matters. It requires frequent monitoring and fine-tuning by the principal and his or her team. Should collegial remediation over a year’s time fail, that teacher should be counseled out of the profession with no right of appeal or dance-of-the-lemon transfer permitted.

[...] not persuaded of the Secretary’s good intentions. There is increasing evidence that there is very little teacher support for Obama school reform strategies among teachers — especially among experienced [...]

Leonie Haimson

90% of teachers also said that reducing class size would have a “very strong” (62 percent) or “strong” impact (28 percent) on student achievement, while only 26 percent said that merit pay would have a strong or very strong positive effect.

jeremiah joseph

It should be apparent that the United States cares about education. The legislative reforms and the enormous budget are evidence of that. Yet all the time and money spent have not provided us with clear and definitive answers to a seeming crisis. . I suggest that how education reform approached is what needs to be changed first. We do not need to “fix education” because America is slipping in some rankings. The driving force to reform education must be a realization that education is not accomplishing what it should, namely the formation of an American. The results-driven approach can never succeed because it does not address the problem. The current educational system does not value knowledge except for what it can do for you. This utilitarian spirit is antithetical to any sound philosophy of education. Is it any wonder that teaching is not a respectable profession when there is no “utility” to be gained from it? Teachers themselves are forced to resort to consequential incentives to motivate student learning. A cultural shift in values must be brought about. If knowledge was truly cherished, teaching would become an honorable calling in life. How can children want to be teachers when they are looked down upon? In addition to the rampant individualism, there is no appreciation of learning for its own sake. The Race to the Top does not eliminate the focus on standardized testing that was so criticized in NCLB. While standardized testing is a handy tool, it often becomes a burden to teachers. Educational researchers today need to discover new ways of testing for what really matters in education, not the ability to do well on a certain test. In the meantime, let us do what we can to exalt teachers and learning.

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