January 22, 2020

Survey of America’s Teachers Outlines Policy Priorities for Nation and Boston

Jan. 22 (Boston) — Educators for Excellence (E4E), a teacher-led organization, released results today from the Voices from the Classroom 2020 survey, the most comprehensive national survey of public school teachers. An oversample of Boston teachers were surveyed to enable deeper, city-level analysis.

“We do so much more than teach. Teachers act as coaches, mentors and parents to grow the whole child,” said Matthew Clark, an English-as-a-second-language teacher and member of E4E-Boston.

“We don’t need tweaks to the education system, we need meaningful, systemic change,” said Nina Leuzzi, a kindergarten teacher and member of E4E-Boston. "This survey is proof that teachers are ready for it.”

Designed by teachers, for teachers, the scientific, nationally representative survey captures crucial insight on the views of public school teachers on a wide variety of issues impacting students and the teaching profession. 

“We are simply failing to listen to teachers until it is time to ask them for their vote. Even then, the policy platforms don’t reflect the issues that teachers care about most,” said Sarah Iddrissu, Executive Director of E4E-Boston. “Teachers become part of a student’s family, knowing what that kid needs even outside their classroom walls. If decision-makers don’t consider educators’ perspective, then they will not know how to meet our children’s needs.”

Key Findings:

Improving compensation and benefits is a priority, and teachers are open to changing traditional tenure, pay and retirement structures.

  • Most (67% national, 73% Boston) report having worked a second job in order to make ends meet, with (31% national, 32% Boston) saying they are doing so now.
  • Substantial majorities say they would consider trading tenure for higher pay (72% national, 77% Boston) or better benefits (64% national, 80% Boston). And (65% national, 75% Boston) of teachers would consider trading guaranteed small raises for the opportunity to earn significantly larger increases based on performance.
  • Teachers overwhelmingly favor financial incentives for those teachers in hard-to-staff schools (86% national, 87% Boston), taking on leadership positions (85% national, 89% Boston) and specializing in hard-to-fill subjects (80% national, 75% Boston). 
  • There is broad support for retirement features that are rarely part of their plans, with teachers characterizing portability to retain retirement savings when changing careers (66% national, 47% Boston) or districts (65% national, 66% Boston) as critically important.

Teachers want effective preparation and professional development throughout their careers and a relevant, rigorous measure to join the profession.

  • Nationwide, only 12% say preparation programs train prospective teachers for the realities of the classroom very well and 21% of teachers who say they received professional development training at their school feel it was very effective in improving their teaching. 
  • Almost all (98%) agree that prospective teachers should demonstrate that they have the knowledge and skills to teach, but only 32% of teachers say the licensure or certification tests that they took assessed this very well.

Teachers believe schools are failing to meet students’ needs or provide safe, welcoming classrooms.

  • Many teachers (39% national, 41% Boston) do not believe their schools often provide a welcoming, inclusive environment for all students or for sizable student subgroups. In particular, (59% national, 57% Boston) believe their schools are not often welcoming and inclusive for LGBTQ+ students.
  • A sizable percentage (37% national, 42% Boston) report that they often or sometimes fear for their own physical safety at school. 

Teachers see themselves as responsible for their students’ learning but need better tools to drive and measure students’ progress.

  • Most teachers (86% national, 90% Boston) agree that they should be responsible for their students’ progress. And when it comes to measuring that progress, nearly all (92% national, 91% Boston) agree that students should have a summative measure of their learning from the beginning to the end of the school year.
  • But just (32% national, 41% Boston) say it is very accurate that their schools have the materials they need for effective instruction. Similarly, (65% national, 56% Boston) say inequitable access to classroom supplies and resources is a problem within their district.
  • Only (40% national, 51% Boston) assert it is very accurate that the curricula used in their schools are of high quality and are well aligned to learning standards, while (31% national, 25% Boston) say that it is very accurate that the curricula are accessible and appropriate for all learners in their classroom. 

Following the Janus v. AFSCME decision, unions have made important progress in proving their value, but there are key areas they will need to address to remain viable long term.

  • A remarkable (53% national, 64% Boston) of nonmembers say they are likely to opt in to their union next year. But among current union members, (23% national, 33% Boston) report they are likely to opt out of their union next year.
  • Many (40% national, 21% Boston) say that their most recent union contract did not improve their pay, and even more say that is the case in terms of: 
    • benefits (59% national, 46% Boston), 
    • working conditions (66% national, 47% Boston) or 
    • resources and supports for students (70% national, 72% Boston) and teachers (64% national, 45% Boston).  

Teachers want to lead change, but feel unheard by decision-makers.

  • They overwhelmingly (95% national, 93% Boston) wish there were more opportunities for them to influence the policies that impact their profession and their students. And (89% national, 85% Boston) agree that opportunities to progress in their career in terms of responsibility, authority and/or increased pay would make them more likely to stay in teaching.
  • A minority (37% national, 49% Boston) say that their perspective is represented a great deal in policy decisions in their union, and even fewer say that this is true at the school (32% national, 35% Boston), district or charter (21% national, 36% Boston), state (15% national, 26% Boston) and federal (12% national, 20% Boston) levels respectively. 

While the survey data is remarkably consistent across regions, experiences, and school characteristics, the differences among three groups — early-career teachers, teachers of color, and charter school teachers — are highlighted in the report.

To download the complete report and access the digital toolkit, visit e4e.org/teachersurvey

Survey Methodology: 
The survey questionnaire was developed by 10 E4E member teachers from across the United States. The instrument was written and administered by Gotham Research Group, an independent research firm, and conducted online from November 4 through November 15, 2019, among a nationally representative sample of 1,000 full-time, public school teachers and an additional sample of 59 Boston teachers. A supplemental survey was conducted online from December 11 through December 17, 2019, among a nationally representative sample of 500 full-time, public school teachers.

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