Waiting to Be Won Over: Teachers Speak on the Profession, Unions, and Reform

On May 7 Ed Sector released the results of a study of teacher attitudes toward their unions, their profession and education reform gleaned from a survey of 1,010 teachers and focus groups. The conclusions:  
"This survey points to several important takeaways. First, before the reform conversation can even get started, school district management must meet its core obligations to create a well functioning workplace for teachers. For their part, the unions must take on, in a meaningful way, some of the chronic problems that damage their public brand, frustrate teachers, and have an adverse impact on students. Labor and management must find ways to work together and advance a reform agenda. Ultimately their fortunes are intertwined....That the loyalty of K-12 public school teachers is up for grabs is ultimately an opportunity for education advocates, teachers unions, and policymakers but most importantly for the nation's current and future teachers."
Some key findings from the survey include:

  • Seventy-six percent of teachers say that too many burned-out veteran teachers stay because they don't want to walk away from benefits and service time accrued. And over half (55 percent) say that it's very difficult and time-consuming to remove teachers who shouldn't be in the classroom.
  • Only 26 percent of teachers say that their most recent formal evaluation was useful and effective in helping them to improve their teaching. Seventy-nine percent support strengthening the formal evaluation of probationary teachers. And nearly a third of teachers (32 percent) say that tenured teachers should be evaluated on an annual basis.
  • Teachers are less likely today (than they were in 2003) to support paying teachers more based on test scores. Only half of teachers support the idea to measure teacher effectiveness based on student growth or "value added."
  • Teachers are more likely today (than they were in 2003) to say unions are essential. The jump among new teachers (<5 yrs) who say the unions are essential is especially striking.
  • Teachers say they would support the union taking an active union role in improving teacher evaluation, supporting and mentoring teachers, guiding ineffective teachers out of the profession, and negotiating new/differentiated roles/responsibilities for teachers.
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