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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Teachers want supportive principals, digital media, survey finds”

    SEATTLE — What do teachers want?

    Supportive principals more than higher salaries.

    Digital media more than textbooks.

    Evaluations based on how much their students learn, rather than principals’ observations.

    Those are a few findings from what’s thought to be the largest-ever survey of American public-school teachers, sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Scholastic publishing company.

    Over the phone and online, about 40,000 teachers answered questions about what they need to help more students achieve, and what they think about issues such as merit pay, testing and common learning standards.

    The results offer a rich look at the challenges and frustrations of teachers and underscore how deeply many care about their work. Seven out of 10, for example, reported that they attend student events at night or on weekends.

    For the Gates Foundation, the goal was to highlight teacher opinions on how best to improve the nation’s schools — a debate taking place in school districts and state capitols across the nation.

    “”We wanted to put teacher’s voices front and center in the debate around education reform,”” saidVicki Phillips, the Gates Foundation’s education director. “”Teachers are on the front line of this work every day … it doesn’t make sense not to be talking to teachers.””

    Harris Interactive conducted the survey from mid-March through mid-June last year. Teachers weren’t told who sponsored the survey.

    Enough teachers responded that the results were broken out by state, and sometimes by age, or the median income of a school’s families.

    Other highlights of the national results:

    —While 92 percent of teachers said tests given in class are essential or very important in measuring student achievement, just 27 percent said the same about state standardized tests.

    —Just 22 percent said they thought evaluations by principals were a very accurate measure of their work.

    —Less than half said higher salaries are absolutely essential for keeping good teachers, and only 8 percent said they thought pay for performance is vital.

    —Forty percent said students entered their classroom below grade level.

    —Nearly 60 percent said common learning standards in all states would have a strong impact on student achievement.

    —Just 12 percent strongly agree that traditional textbooks engage students, while 44 percent said the same about digital resources such as classroom technology.

    —When asked what’s most important in keeping good teachers, the top choice was “”supportive leadership”” followed by higher salaries.

    —Close to a third — 30 percent — said monetary rewards for teachers had no impact on increasing students’ academic achievement.

    —All but 3 percent of teachers said that setting high expectations is very important or essential in raising their students’ achievement.

    —The results also showed some divides by age. New teachers, for example, see more importance in classroom technology than the veterans.

    Phillips said some questions addressed national-education issues while others focused on areas of interest to the Gates Foundation.

    The responses won’t cause the foundation to make major changes, she said, but they do provide food for thought about how it tries to help improve the quality of teaching. That has been one of new focuses of the foundation’s education giving since Phillips arrived several years ago.

    The foundation, for example, is working to provide better tools for teachers, she said, and the survey’s findings that many teachers prefer digital media “”has clear implications for us.””

    Teachers’ opposition to pay for performance was not surprising, Phillips said.

    That’s “”not without reason,”” she said. “”While we are proponents of performance-based compensation, we also agree with teachers that it shouldn’t be based on one test … or capricious evaluation, or popularity.””

    That’s one reason the Gates Foundation is researching new ways of evaluating teachers, she said. “”We want to figure out what set of indicators teachers would see as fair.””

    The survey is just one way the foundation solicits teachers’ views. It also uses teachers as advisers in many of its efforts. And it says it plans to do a second teacher survey, although probably not as large as this one.

     

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