Lastest Gates Foundation Research Asked the Teachers

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"?

Class Size
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.


dan dempsey said…
Oh my oh my .... think about WA State.

Class Size
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."

Texans just expressed extreme disapproval when class sizes in grade one exceeded the 22 student limit in about 20% of Texas schools.

Tell me about WA State and I-724 with hoped for classroom enrollment limits in grades one through four in our WA State.... oh that was in "time forgotten" in a universe long ago.

Where is our WA Supreme Court? Resting until 2018.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for bringing these issues out in your blog. I think those top issues are very true for me and my students here in Seattle. Teachers do want reform. We want to treat kids as they deserve to be treated as individuals not as customers (isn't that a shocking reform idea?) That means reasonable class sizes so we can know each student well and determine the most effective plan of action. That means having supportive families so if the child needs extra work, the parents, student, and teachers can work together to meet the challenges.

So many times teachers aren't asked what will make a difference. That's like not asking a firefighter what would make his job more effective. We wouldn't tell him, "well I saw a fire once so I know how to best design practices around firefighting."

- Teacher who is holding out hope that the pendulum will swing in the direction of best practices!
Patrick said…
So, will the Gates Foundation and all their various shills change what they're lobbying for?
dan dempsey said…
Dear Teacher holding out Hope,

I am curious.

What is a "Best Practice"?

How is that determined?

That phrase has been used in so many Action Reports presented to the School Board that I have no idea what practices are best.

You said Teachers do want "Reform". What "Reform" do you want?

The Gates Foundation and TFA's Wendy Kopp are all for "Reform" ... Is that the "Reform" you desire?
dan dempsey said…
About those class sizes in Texas from the NY Times.

Texas has had the 22-student cap for kindergarten through fourth-grade classes since 1984, and districts can apply for exemptions for financial reasons. But during the 2011 legislative session, to ease the pain of a roughly $5.4 billion reduction in state financing that did not account for the estimated influx of 170,000 new students over the next two years — and after an attempt to do away with the cap failed — lawmakers made those exemptions easier to obtain. Texas schools, which have shed approximately 25,000 employees this school year, including more than 10,000 teachers, have jumped at the chance to trim costs.

Meanwhile in WA State class sizes increase and Seattle decides to employ 5 TFA Corps Members through a bogus conditional certification process that ignores existing WAC 181-79A-231.

Gates Foundation pushes TFA for Seattle and the Board and Superintendent casually break the law.

So how do teachers feel about this?

How will the State Auditor see it?
My Letter.

How will DeBell, Martin-Morris, Carr, and Smith-Blum vote on Wednesday?
Anonymous said…
Honestly, we can't legislate family support. And class size for high achievers can be larger. There is no one right answer.

In at-risk areas, small class size. In higher SES areas, larger. In at-risk neighborhoods, longer school day and year - those kids are probably not participating in enriching activities anyway.

The thing about longer year and day I agree with. I think most teachers don't want it because they want the time off. I can't really blame them because we work almost 24/7 as it is. That's true for some of us.

But still, a longer school day and year for some kids is appropriate. And I'm not talking summer school which in my experience hasn't been very helpful.

"And class size for high achievers can be larger."

Because? And we have a huge pushback around tracking in classrooms so even if it's okay for high achievers to be in larger classrooms, it's not what some parents believe is the right thing to do.
Anonymous said…
My daughter has been in small class (most 15–20 kids) since middle school. She started the process as a math-phobic, science-reluctant, arts kids. She got these class sizes in private, non-religious schools with a strong arts & science approach. Both schools are far less diverse than her elementary school, but they were not elite either.

Now as a junior in high school, she's considering science as a career and does better in her math and science classes (As) than Humanities—what we had considered her strong point. She plans to take physics, advanced chemistry and calculus or statistics next year.

I believe that the small class size was one of the biggest reasons this transformation took place. She knew the teachers were very aware of her and her performance in the classroom. The teachers got to know her and her strengths and weaknesses and worked with her to build study habits that would help her learn the material. They were available via phone or email on evenings and weekends. They had open office times when she could connect with them in person and get extra help if needed. There is no way you could expect a teacher to have this level of contact with a classroom with 30+ students (esp. when it is times 4 or 5).

I also have to note that both schools use a traditional math curriculum—that made a HUGE difference for her.

Private schools are not as exclusive or their students ideal as some think. There are disruptive students, students with learning issues and special needs. But when the class size is smaller, the teacher can manage the disruptions and put in the extra time to work with the kids with special needs.

This, to me, is just such a no-brainer. As a parent, I know how difficult it is to manage a play-date or party with a large number of children. Parents of multiple kids can probably testify as well. It has got to be harder to manage a rainy day with 2+ kids of different ages, personalities, interests, etc. Expand that to a 27-kid classroom.

Do we really need research to know this?

Anonymous said…
With what money?

Lowering class size is the single most expensive option available to increasing performance of any sort. Probably, prohibitively so.

Chris S. said…
Math problem of the day: How many elementary counselors (or any additional instructional FTE) would $800,000 pay for?
Chris S. said…
Remember the charter money is for a small number of "underperforming" urban areas...
Reader, I didn't say we could lower class size.

But, that it keeps coming up - with both teachers AND parents - as an issue that is important (and important to being a good teacher) seems worthy to note. This issue is not going away.

Yes, the Legislature is just getting rid of I-728 but that really didn't get us smaller class sizes anyway.

I wish we had funded even half-day aides for many high need classrooms.
Matthew said…
@ Melissa

Doug Harris, an economist at UWisc, as written about class size for a while.

A parent himself, he notes that class size is something we can observe easily, where as teacher quality is harder to see. (Two parents can often disagree on the 'quality' of the same teacher.)

So when parents are asked, they often favor CSR as it is the intervention they can most easily observe. Intuitively it ought to make sense that with fewer kids, my kid will get more attention and make more progress.

And of course for a teacher, all things being equal, fewer kids is less work, and may also lead them to think their effort will rise. So I understand the motivation.

The question is whether moving my child from a class of 22 with a high-quality teacher to a class of 15 with a lower-quality teacher is an improvement or not?

As Harris notes, it's a set of trade offs. I'm not surprised by the poll findings, but I'm not always convinced that what the majority of people want or don't is inherently 'right' or 'wrong.'

Tracking may seem abhorrent to some parents' values, but homogeneous ability grouped classes might be easier to teach. Again, it's a set of trade offs.
suep. said…
Matthew said... (...) The question is whether moving my child from a class of 22 with a high-quality teacher to a class of 15 with a lower-quality teacher is an improvement or not?

No, that is not the question, Matthew. That is a false dichotomy set up by you.

The question is whether or not most children would benefit from the increased individual attention they would get from being in smaller classes, and whether most teachers could do a better job of helping kids learn if they could focus on fewer kids at a time.
Sahila said…
The study states,
"Additionally, since teachers believe that student growth is the most important measure by which their effectiveness can be determined, then it stands to reason that tenure should be reevaluated at various intervals in a teacher’s career, as their classrooms evolve; 80% of teachers agree that this should be the case."...
This is a very misleading statement. When they break down which factors measure "student growth," only 4% of teachers said standardized test scores should be a measure of student growth yet that is the only measure of student growth used in value-added models and teacher evaluations imposed under Race to the Top."
Anonymous said…

I'm a teacher who has been successful with 28 kids and with 19
kids, (By the way, who are you talking about that has a classroom in Seattle with 22 kids?)

What's the difference?

--I am a kinder, gentler person with 19 kids since I don't have to herd 28 kids while constantly worrying about safety and logistics.
--The students are happier and calmer with individualized attention.
--I can teach them how to write really well.
--I will last longer as a teacher.
--The students will have learning experiences which may not show up on standardized tests or may not show up for years--but they are definitely getting more in-depth learning.
--Classrooms are too crowded.

Matthew, I'm the type of teacher you want for your kids (high test scores, parent requested,beloved by students & so on & so on), and your attitude makes teachers like me fed up with parents like you because it's all about you.

--enough already
Patrick said…
My daughter's 4th grade class at Jane Addams last year had 22 or 23 kids. It was a fluke of numbers. The number of 4th graders was in the mid 30s, so they made one 4th grade class with 22 or 23 kids and one 3rd/4th grade class with about 28 or 29 kids combined. But this year it's back to 31 kids in the class.

Matthew, lots of people have called for excellent teachers, and it sounds great until you try to define it. How can you operationally identify which teachers are excellent and which are pretty good and which are bad? Who gets to make the definition? If it's student standardized test scores, I hope you can see the problems with that approach.
Jan said…
But wait. I don't have the data to really make a strong argument here -- but I think we COULD "effectively" lower class sizes, if we approached it differently. What if a "TfA-like organization existed that really worked more like a Peace Corps -- where salaries were extremely lower (with a housing stipend, based on geographic area) and where the incredibly bright, enthusiastic college grads worked not as teachers, but as aides -- and the goal was to match them up with as many teachers/schools as needed/wanted them to effectively reduce class sizes to a more manageable load. They could work (in the classrooms) with smaller groups, tutor kids one-on-one, work with a portion of the class working on on-line assignments, help with lesson plans and grading, -- really, there is so much that "regular" teachers could use them for. They would have their regular two-year commitment, and schools could work with a combination of grant funding, donations, and schools funds to fund them. At the same time -- while I am not a big proponent of on-line learning as a stand alone model, there are lots of instances where on-line resources can be used very effectively to give kids more in-depth work, accelerated work, or more practice. And some/much of that time could be overseen/supervised by TfA or other aides -- or kids coming in from places like Seattle U. Meanwhile, the people lucky enough to be working in classes with the many really great teachers that are out there would be getting incredible, hands-on experience with respect to classroom management, lesson planning, etc.

If the powers that be weren't so damn busy using TfA and on-line learning to push an anti-teacher, anti-union, privatization political ideology -- there is so much more that TfA could have become, and so much more that we could do to effectively decrease class size (or its effects) while still delivering a better learning experience than we are now providing. I don't go down this road often -- because it is bad enough to deal with the "bad stuff as it is." When I start to think about how much better it could have been -- it makes me tear my hair out!
Jan said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
Well said Jan. I know that at my daughter's public elementary in the late-90s–2006, we had AmeriCorps volunteers for a few years. These amazing young people did many of the things you mentioned here, and some found their true calling and went on to careers in teaching.

Anonymous said…
Solvay, you beat me to it.
Jan, that program is called AmeriCorps. It is awesome and it is here in some schools.

If this district could be saturated with AmeriCorps help and we threw out TFA, students, parents and teachers would all be happier and have fewer political headaches.

But, see, AmeriCorps just isn't as sexy. The kids aren't The Best and The Brightest. They're simply earnest and committed to helping community, and not egotistic enough to insist on being the class leader. That's not something that appeals to the vulture er venture capitalist crowd shoving TFA down our throats.

And when Kay Smith-Blum and Sherry Carr go blah blah blah blah 'tool in toolkit keep TFA' on Wednesday, remember: they haven't lifted a finger to support AmeriCorps in our classrooms. Shame on them. Even Susan Enfield was a big AmeriCorps fan.


Thank you all for reminding me of the fine work Americorps does in our schools both during the school day AND after school.

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