A new Gates Foundation report (with Scholastic) has just come out called Primary Sources: 2012 - America's Teachers on the Teaching Profession. They surveyed about 10,000 teachers via e-mail and in person about schools, their classrooms, student and teacher performance and assessment, tenure, family involvement, job satisfaction and digital content. It was not revealed to the teachers who was sponsoring the survey.
One chart that jumped out at me is on page 12 called "Impact that various effects would have on improving academic achievement".
Will you look at that - Family involvement and support was picked to be "very strong" or "strong" by 98% of the teachers. High expectations was second at 96%. Principals was the third choice at 91%. And coming in fourth (Earth to Bill) - lower class sizes at 90%. Interestingly, lower class size was more important to teachers of older students.
What came in low on the scale for teachers? A longer school year, monetary awards for teachers and a longer school day. What are ed reformers saying will work? Those three things.
From the report:
- 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.
- 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.
- Nearly nine in 10 (89%) teachers agree that tenure should reflect evaluations of teacher effectiveness, and 92% say that tenure should not protect ineffective teachers.
–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.
Check out the graph on page 50 - it tells the story.
—In addition to general education students, a remarkable:
• 87% teach students with behavioral issues
• 85% teach special education students
• 83% teach students living in poverty
• 69% teach gifted and talented students
• 64% teach English Language Learners (ELL)
This may tie in with veteran teachers reporting lower parental participation in their classrooms and schools.
– 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.
Oh, so it's just as many of us suspected. Teachers want to be paid a decent salary for where they live and teach but having supports - from families, school leaders and their district - is more important.
On page 62 we see that four out of seven factors for teacher retention involved other school personnel, what the report calls "social capital."
How long is a teacher's day? The report states:
Few would assume that teachers’ work days begin and end when the bell rings, but the degree to which teachers are investing time before and after school may be surprising: prior to taking on any extracurricular activities, teachers work an average of 10 hours and 40 minutes a day, three hours and 20 minutes beyond the average required work day in public schools nationwide.
Those teachers who take on extracurricular clubs or athletics (43% of teachers) add another 90 minutes on average to their work day. (To note, the average work day that teachers who were surveyed are required to be at their school is 7.5 hours.)
Surprising to whom? The yahoos at the comment section of the Times who constantly decry teachers' "short" work day and "summers off"?
“On average, teachers have 23 students in their classes and say that, ideally, they would have 20. When asked about the point at which student achievement would be negatively impacted, however, on average, teachers say 27 students is the tipping point."
For K-5 teachers the maximum desired is 25.2, for 6-8 27.7 and for high school, 28.1.
I love this quote from one middle school teacher - "Give them standardized tests, but not all the time. Their lives shouldn't depend on it, and neither should ours."
Teachers overwhelmingly agree that students should be measured on the basis of classroom performance—including class assignments, formative assessments, and class participation—more so than on the basis of formalized tests—standardized or not.
The graph on page 29 about what kind of testing teachers think is most important is telling - the largest groups are in-class tests, then district-required tests and THEN state-required tests. However, on page 30, a graph there shows that teachers believe the state-tests to be good tests but that drops when they are asked about benchmarking students or helping parents or measuring schools against schools.
Grade Level Work and College Preparedness
Devastating results on page 47.
Only 15% of Prek-5 teachers believe their students come in ready for grade-level work; 12% for middle school and just 8% for high school. Meanwhile only 60% of high school teachers believe their student leave ready for 2-4 year colleges.
The veteran teachers (5+ years at same school) felt that they were seeing more students come in (at least 30%+ for elementary, middle and high school) at lower reading and math levels.
The higher the community median household income, the more confidence teachers had in students being prepared for grade-level work or moving onto 2-4 college.
FYI, at the end of the report, there are some very good graphics for the major findings of the report.