Speaking of timely: Study says teachers left out of policy debates

I received this release Monday, minutes after posting the Teacher Survey that was done by the governor’s office and that many of you find full of holes.

Given that backdrop,I thought you would get a kick out of these findings from a new study by Public Agenda and Learning Point Associates:

Educational reformers of all stripes have focused tremendous energy on thinking of ways to identify effective teachers and in turn recruit, retain, compensate, and support them. But what do teachers think of their ideas? The Retaining Teacher Talent study, a nationwide study conducted by Learning Point Associates and Public Agenda suggests that what teachers think are good indicators of effectiveness — and what they think will make them more effective — are not always aligned with current priorities in education policy.

This third release of data from the Retaining Teacher Talent study, Convergence and Contradictions in Teachers’ Perceptions of Policy Reform Ideas, seeks to draw teachers into the debate to bring nuance and experience to the conversation. This report describes the implications of the results of the nationwide survey for policymakers and teachers who want to influence policy.

“As we enter this new decade, teachers stand at the center of this policy vortex,” said Sabrina Laine, Ph.D., chief program officer for educator effectiveness at Learning Point Associates. “Democratizing the national policy conversation by getting teachers involved provides a bridge between policy and practice. Ultimately, grounding this debate with the voices of experience and evidence is of critical importance. The success of these reforms rests in large part on the support of those who will be most directly affected—teachers.”

“There’s a conventional wisdom that teachers uniformly resist the idea of measuring teacher effectiveness, but in fact, teachers are open to a number of different ways of doing it, including looking at how much their own students learn compared to other students. And most teachers agree that making it easier to take ineffective teachers out of the classroom would improve education,” said Jean Johnson, director of Education Insights at Public Agenda. “It’s way past time to get teachers themselves involved in these crucial discussions about how to judge teacher effectiveness.”

Although education policy reform has focused on dramatic changes to teacher evaluation and compensation, this report suggests that these reform ideas are not the most popular among teachers. This study explores the attitudes of all teachers toward how they would measure effectiveness, examines how they perceive themselves to be effective relative to their teaching conditions, and indicates what they believe will improve overall teacher effectiveness.

Top findings include the following:

  • The majority of teachers agree on four possible ways to judge teacher performance. Nearly all teachers (92 percent) rated the level of student interest and engagement as an excellent or good indicator of teacher effectiveness. Teachers also gave excellent or good ratings to how much their own students learn compared with other students (72 percent), feedback from principals and administrators (70 percent), and how well students perform on district standardized tests (56 percent). At the same time, fewer teachers (12 percent) gave standardized tests the top rating than they gave any of the other measures of effectiveness.
  • Teachers with less experience in the classroom are more likely to have concerns about using standardized test scores to measure their performance. Although the majority of teachers said that standardized tests are good or excellent indicators of teacher effectiveness, less experienced teachers were more divided: Half of all teachers with less than five years of experience gave this assessment a fair or poor rating, compared with just 32 percent of teachers with more than 20 years of experience.
  • Teachers prefer having a principal who frequently observes their classroom and gives detailed feedback. A majority of teachers indicated that they want their principals to be involved (63 percent). As national education policy begins to extend measuring effectiveness to principals, teachers underscored the importance of strong principals to support their success in the classroom.
  • Teachers indicate that class size reduction and addressing student discipline would improve their overall effectiveness. Although many policy reform experts have prioritized teacher evaluation, preparation, and compensation and reward, the majority of teachers ranked class size reduction (66 percent) and addressing student discipline (68 percent) as the most important factors in improving their overall effectiveness.

As part of the survey analysis, the report compares teachers who were most confident about their effectiveness in the classroom (33 percent of the sample) with those who were less sure (66 percent). Among other differences noted in the report, the self-perceived effective teachers were more likely to report better working conditions in their schools and to give better ratings to their principal for providing instructional feedback.

Policymakers have proposed and adopted various reform ideas to improve teacher effectiveness. In addition to the importance of engaging teachers in education reform, this report highlights the continued lack of solid, replicated empirical evidence on which to base policy decisions. This dearth of evidence hinders effective policymaking and ensures that the debate will continue.

13 comments Add your comment

high school teacher

January 26th, 2010
8:15 am

“Teachers indicate that class size reduction and addressing student discipline would improve their overall effectiveness.”

With the education budget slashed by 700 million, I doubt that these two most important factors will occur any time soon.

Joy in Teaching

January 26th, 2010
10:31 am

As long as AYP is based in part on student behavior, then student dicipline (or lack of it) will not be addressed either.

Joy in Teaching

January 26th, 2010
10:32 am

Enter your comments here

Tapping out

January 26th, 2010
11:44 am

When I started teaching 15 years ago I actually had a chance to teach. Teaching is simply teaching a test and babysitting in today’s schools. Discipline is the biggest problem by far. We also need to find a way to hold parents responsible. If a student in 1st grade does not know their colors, letters, numbers, days of week and months, etc, I blame the lazy azzzzz parents. It starts at home, the smartest students are smart because of there parents instilling that value. Education is truly in a sad state.


January 26th, 2010
12:17 pm

Teachers (basically all educators) are not invited to the table because our voice is not wanted. One of our state legislators was furious over e-mails and phone calls he received from teachers. His published remarks stated that he felt teachers were too emotional, did not understand the issues, and should not consume so much of his time. He is not the only legislator who has made indications like this.

When President George H. W. Bush began the Goals 2000 adventure, he worked with governors and business leaders – not educators. Reagan did not include teachers. NCLB did not include teachers’ voices and Gov. Barnes’ A+ reform act merely paid lip service to teachers being included in the process.

What I find truly amazing about this serious omission is the comparison to Japanese auto manufacturing. Do any of our leaders understand some of the employee feedback cycles they have included that have led to better performing cars? They truly understood how listening to employees would lead to a better bottom line. The same would be true for education in the United States.

Interesting also are the references to administrative support and the need to improve student discipline in our schools. These are two essential components. Administrators must be willing to back teachers regarding disciplinary measures. They must be willing to support teachers with good, high quality professional learning. These ingredients can be sustained and will lead to better student performance.


January 26th, 2010
12:35 pm

What’s new? This has always been the case and always will be. And until it changes, nothing in education will change for the better. It will only get worse as more and more teachers are needed and they can’t be ound or won’t stay. Believe it. It is aleady happening and it willget worse.

what's right for kids???

January 26th, 2010
2:04 pm

A co-worker and friend sent this to me: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teacher_of_the_year/2010/01/teachers_should_be_seen_and_no.html
No, politicans have absolutely no desire to hear what teachers have to say.


January 26th, 2010
2:59 pm

C’mon, Tony?! Who said that? We have to know!

just browsing

January 26th, 2010
5:16 pm

Love that edweek piece- Fly on the wall- sure sums up how so many of us in the trenches feel.


January 26th, 2010
6:18 pm

There’s no need to listen to anything we say. If we were smart we’d have gotten “real” jobs.

(Or so they think to themselves, as they are bemoaning the “fact” that “the best and the brightest don’t go into teaching anymore.”)

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January 26th, 2010
9:11 pm

During each of my 33 years in the classroom, teachers were not involved in education policy decision making. Also, many administrators neither want nor value teacher input. During my last 2 years in the classroom, 2007-2009, we had a new head administrator who wasted no time telling us that we had to handle discipline problems ourselves. The prevailing attitude from him was that he didn’t want to be bothered, and if a student was sent to the front office, little/no action would be taken. Students quickly discovered that being sent to the office for disciplinary matters had little meaning. This type of attitude on the part of administrators causes a teacher a lot of frustration because of the lack of support from administrators. We had a very good assistant principal who dealt well with students sent to the office for disciplinary matters. A parent complained, and the head principal forced the AP to become more lenient in dealing with these types of students. It has always been my belief that teachers should be integral in setting education policies. No state official ever intervenes so intimately in the day-to-day affairs of other licensed professionals, but teachers have always been fair game. As a previous poster noted, when I first began teaching, I could actually teach, but near the end of my career I was teaching to the test and engaged in a constantly process of appeasement of students, even when they were disruptive or breaking other class rules. In this scenario, the only winners are the administrators.

Lisa Kennedy

February 17th, 2010
6:20 pm

This is a letter I sent to Governor Perdue at first mention of his “Pay for Performance” proposal. I also copied it to every state senator and representative who was on a committee that might be involved with education, children, and budget. I received a number of responses from both members of the Senate and the House. Some were in agreement and some stood on that proverbial political “fence”. The one person from whom I would have most appreciated a response, Governor Sonny Perdue, has yet to respond or even assign the task of responding to one of his minions.

Dear Governor Perdue,

I am ashamed that in your final two years in office you have made it clear to the people of Georgia that you do not find educators to be worthy of pay that would not equal minimum wage if the number of hours worked at home and off campus were to be counted. I am not a teacher but I do work in an elementary school. It has been my observation that the morale of the teachers and support staff has plummeted since the original reduction in state financial support of education. The lack of respect for teachers from the general public has been ongoing for many years. With your latest proposal for even more cuts in education funding and your proposal for a new method of compensation based on performance you have shown that a lack of respect for teachers is acceptable.

Teaching is a business unlike any other business in the world. When I hear people say that “in the business world” you are paid for how you perform I am infuriated. Do their businesses revolve around the education of our future leaders among a class of thirty students of many different abilities? I think not.

How can you possibly believe that every teacher’s performance can be based on test scores? How can you properly evaluate the performance of two teachers equally well educated, one who teaches in a tony area of town where parent volunteers and school foundations can provide the absolute newest and best of educational materials and the other who teaches in a low income area of town and is fortunate to have two parents out of thirty students who are actively involved in their children’s educations? Or even the evaluation of two teachers in the same school where one teaches a class of average to above average students and the other teaches a class that includes regular students and students who suffer disabilities? I have seen no positive information on how the two teachers’ performance can be determined on an equal basis.

I’m reminded of an old saying, “Weighing your hogs every day will not fatten them up.” We administer two tests in the fall, a writing test in the winter, and then yet another test in the spring. I have proctored three of these tests and I worry each time about the pressure our students feel every day of testing. Numerous tests will not “fatten our hogs” nor will it produce enthusiastic learners when their daily routines in class are oft interrupted by preparing for the tests, taking the test, and recovering from the tensions created by the testing.

Your own State Superintendent of Education does not agree with your proposals. Perhaps she has more insight as an educator than you do as a governor.

My wish is that every person involved in making your proposals into law would spend a week teaching, without lesson plans prepared by the regular teacher, in both a school with students from families that respect education and one where the teacher is “The Lone Ranger”. There is no book written that can possibly inform a legislator of the infinite tasks of a public school educator as well as actual experience. The legislators who are brave enough to participate in such an experiment will very quickly realize that schools are not a typical “business” and they will not only support continued additional funding but secretly pray that they never have to “teach” again.

It is time to forgo the photo opportunities, lobbyist gifts, and partisan politics of days gone by and pay special attention to the needs of Georgia’s students, teachers, and support personnel. Make your last year in office one that is memorable not because of cuts in education funding but because of your understanding and appreciation of the need to support additional funding for education in order to prepare the students of today for the leadership of tomorrow.