An important survey was released this week that captures teachers' perceptions of their professional working environment. The national study of 900 teachers by Public Agenda describes educators as falling into one of three groups: "Disheartened," "Contented," and "Idealists." It also raises some serious policy implications for the placement, retention and longevity of teachers based on teachers' perceptions about working conditions, why they entered the profession, and their opinions about proposed policy reforms.
But as useful as this survey may be in defining these issues at a 30,000-foot level, it does not approach the power and utility of teacher surveys that offer entire populations of educators in individual states and districts the opportunity to share their voice about working conditions, leadership support, resources, opportunities for professional learning, etc. In turn, these anonymous surveys also provide contextualized, customized summary data at the state-, district- and school-level based on the perceptions and opinions of local educators.
Teaching and Learning Conditions surveys have been led by the New Teacher Center in states such as Alabama, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina and West Virginia, and in school districts such as Fairfax County, Virginia. They provide state and district policymakers and educational leaders with powerful data to define issues that need to be addressed in school and districts that have major implications for the quality and effectiveness of teachers and principals.
Read the Public Agenda report, but also think about conducting a Teaching and Learning Conditions survey in your state or school district. What do the teachers where you live and work think?