January 22, 2020

Survey of America’s Teachers Outlines Policy Priorities as Election Season Begins

Jan. 22 (New York) — 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. 

“In previous elections, students and teachers have often been treated as an afterthought at best,” said Daniel Gannon, a high school history teacher and member of E4E-New York. “With this report, we hope to bring the most urgent conversations we’ve had in the teachers’ lounge out to national debates between presidential candidates and to state, local and union elections.”

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. 

“Our team of teachers came together to collect their colleagues’ opinions on critical educational policies and topics and ensure their voices are part of the 2020 election conversations,” said Evan Stone, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of E4E. “By providing this insight into teachers’ expertise and preferences, we hope that current and potential leaders at the federal, state, district, union and school levels will see this survey as a roadmap as they make decisions that will impact our students and country for generations.”

Key Findings:

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

Most (67%) report having worked a second job in order to make ends meet, with 31% saying they are doing so now.
Substantial majorities say they would consider trading tenure for higher pay (72%) or better benefits (64%). And 65% 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%), taking on leadership positions (85%) and specializing in hard-to-fill subjects (80%). 
There is broad support for retirement features that are rarely part of their plans, with teachers characterizing the ability to retain retirement savings when changing careers (66%) or districts (65%) as critically important.

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

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.

Thirty-nine percent do not believe their schools often provide a welcoming, inclusive environment for all students or for sizable student subgroups. In particular, 59% of teachers believe their schools are not often welcoming and inclusive for LGBTQ+ students.
A sizable percentage (37%) 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.

Eighty-six percent agree that they should be responsible for their students’ progress. And when it comes to measuring that progress, nearly all (92%) agree that students should have a summative measure of their learning from the beginning to the end of the school year.
But just 32% say it is very accurate that their schools have the materials they need for effective instruction. Similarly, 65% say inequitable access to classroom supplies and resources is a problem within their district.
Only 40% 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% say that it is very accurate that the curricula are accessible and appropriate for all learners in their classroom.

Teachers are open to choice under certain circumstances.

A minority of teachers support school choice options, including universal vouchers (24%), vouchers for students from low-income households (37%) and charter schools (35%).
However, a majority are open to school choice under certain circumstances: when it is equally accessible to all students (70%), doesn’t shift funds from public schools (65%), doesn’t discriminate against students (64%) and increases academic achievement for students from low-income households (55%).

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% of nonmembers say they are likely to opt in to their union next year. But among current union members, 23% report they are likely to opt out of their union next year.
Forty percent 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%), working conditions (66%) or resources and supports for students (70%) and teachers (64%).  

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

They overwhelmingly (95%) wish there were more opportunities for them to influence the policies that impact their profession and their students. And 89% 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.
Only 37% 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%), district or charter (21%), state (15%) and federal (12%) 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

Additional quotes from the survey’s teacher-authors:

“Our union leaders need to hear and actively listen to our stories in order to effectively advocate for our needs and those of our students,” said Dr. Judith Angeles, a kindergarten teacher at Canterbury Elementary and member of E4E-Los Angeles. “As policy priorities are discussed, they must include their members in their conversations.”

“It’s time to treat teachers as professionals,” said Charles Beavers, a Chicago Public Schools educator and member of E4E-Chicago. “Teachers believe they are responsible for students’ learning, so let’s ensure they have the tools and training to hone their craft and the pay to keep talented folks in our classrooms.”

“Teachers have great insight into what our students need and we’re ready to lead the change,” said Jasmine Byrd, an English-as-a-new-language and English-as-a-second-language teacher and member of E4E-New York. “But those in power must listen to us and ensure we have a seat at the table.”

“Many students enter my classroom without speaking a word of English or ever having touched a computer,” said Matthew Clark, an English-as-a-second-language teacher and member of E4E-Boston. “Yet they take the same computer-based assessments as every student in the state. While this can provide information that uncovers deep inequities, it does not give me the full picture of my students’ knowledge, skills and growth.”

“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.”

“Equity has to exist in every component of our K-12 system,” said Anthony Hernandez, an elementary school teacher and member of E4E-Minnesota. “We teachers know what needs to be done, but too often policymakers don’t honor our perspectives and instead divert resources away from where they are most needed.”

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. 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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Survey of America’s Teachers Outlines Policy Priorities as Election Season Begins