What Teachers Want

The survey, which was conducted by phone and on the web from mid-March to mid-June 2009, identifies five solutions to address the challenges facing schools today and to help ensure that all students achieve at their highest levels:

  1. Establish Clear Standards, Common Across States
  2. Use Multiple Measures to Evaluate Student Performance
  3. Innovate to Reach Today's Students
  4. Accurately Measure Teacher Performance and Provide Non-Monetary Rewards
  5. Bridge School & Home to Raise Student Achievement


Within these solution areas, the survey findings debunk several commonly held myths about teachers’ views. The survey found that:

  • While higher salaries are important, teachers say they are less important than a supportive leader. Fewer than half of teachers (45%) say higher salaries are absolutely essential for retaining good teachers. More teachers say it is absolutely essential to have supportive leadership (68%), time to collaborate (54%), and quality curriculum (49%).
  • Teachers aren't opposed to standardized tests as one way to measure student performance. More than 80 percent of teachers say district-required tests are at least a somewhat important measure of student performance (84%). Overall, teachers value multiple measures, including formative assessments, performance on class assignments and class participation along with standardized tests.
  • Tenure doesn't make a good teacher. Only 10 percent of teachers say that tenure is a very accurate measure of teacher performance while 42 percent say it is not at all accurate. Student engagement and year over year progress of students are by far viewed as the most accurate indicators of teacher performance measures (60% and 55%, respectively, rate as very accurate) but are not frequently used to evaluate teachers.
  • Textbooks aren't the answer. Only 12 percent of teachers say traditional textbooks help improve student academic achievement and a mere 6 percent say textbooks engage students in learning. Teachers overwhelmingly say (81%) that up-to-date information-based technology is very important or absolutely essential to improve student achievement.
  • A teacher's job doesn’t end at 3 p.m. Seven in ten teachers attend their students' after school and weekend events. More than half (51%) of elementary school teachers are willing to have parent teacher conferences at students' homes — indicating their understanding of time-strapped parents and their belief in the importance of helping every child have a strong home-school connection.

In case you missed this earlier in the month, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored a national survey of 40,000 teacher to look at what teachers have to say about education.

What did they say?

1. School leadership is important
2. Standardized tests aren't "the devil"
3. Tenure isn't helping education
4. Textbooks suck
5. Teaching is hard work

A lot of these might be "duh" points in education, but let's be honest - common sense is hard to come by these days.

From a methodological standpoint, this is a great achievement to gather such a big sample and focus on the topics that they did.

Hopefully, researchers and policy makers will take this information seriously and use it in the decision-making process.