Teachers Value Planning Time, Collaboration with Colleagues, Survey Finds

By Joetta Sack-Min

Teachers are an undeniably important factor for ensuring students receive a good education. But they are frustrated--they often feel that their voices are often lost in the ongoing debates about education policy and issues related to student learning, a new survey has found.

Earlier this year the Center on Education Policy surveyed more than 3,000 teachers—from elementary to high school, in rural, suburban and urban school districts--and found that they most value planning time, collaboration with colleagues, and smaller class sizes. Salaries and benefits ranked fourth in the survey.

The survey seeks to inform policymakers as some states are paying more attention to recruiting and retaining new teachers as shortages persist, enrollments in teacher preparation programs have dropped, and as many as half of new teachers leave the field during their first five years in the classroom. The survey also debunked several widespread assumptions about workplace conditions and teacher viewpoints.

“If we want to make things better for teachers, our strategies might be to tap into these things that they clearly find important,” said CEP Executive Director Maria Ferguson. The Learning First Alliance held a webinar with CEP researchers to discuss the findings and implications of the survey.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • The teaching field is getting more complex and demanding;
  • Teachers do not feel their voices are being heard in state and national policies;
  • Teachers are maintaining autonomy in their classrooms, despite concerns;
  • Use of time and class size matter to teachers.

And rather than eliminating standardized tests entirely, 60 percent preferred cutting the frequency and length. CEP Deputy Director Diane Stark Rentner said during the webinar that she was surprised by teachers’ support for state and district assessments. In general, teachers  were supportive of assessments that were designed by teachers, but were concerned about the amount of time they spent preparing for tests.

Further, Rentner added, teachers are very eager to collaborate with their colleagues in issues such as curriculum and classroom strategies, but much of the collaboration takes place informally, for example, in hallway conversations.

To learn more about “Listen to Us: Teacher Views and Voices” and other initiatives, go to CEP’s website:  http://www.cep-dc.org/.