The state Education Committee tabled the governor's tenure reform proposal in its vote for a substitute education bill Monday night, but a recent survey of 10,000 teachers nationwide found that 80 percent believe that tenure, once granted, should be regularly re-evaluated, and 92 percent say that tenure should not protect ineffective teachers.
The survey, a collaboration of Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also found that teachers see value in standardized tests but are wary of using them as the sole indicator of student achievement. Only half of those surveyed said they provide a meaningful benchmark against which teachers can judge their students' progress.
While 85 percent of teachers surveyed said students' progress over the course of an academic year should contribute a great deal or moderately in measuring teachers' performance, they supported assessments of their own work from a variety of sources, including in-class observation and performance reviews from principals, peers and even students.
In other findings, the survey, released earlier this month, found that teachers work an average of 53 hours per week, and 89 percent say they are satisfied with their jobs, including 42 percent who said they are very satisfied. Only 16 percent of teachers surveyed said they plan to leave the field.
Mark Fabrizi, an English teacher at North Branford High School, said he agreed that "teachers should be assessed more regularly, and no one should be allowed to become complacent."
He and others cautioned against an over-reliance on standardized test scores, which could lead school districts to cheat on tests by manipulating student answers. That's what happened last year at an elementary school in Waterbury, where students were coached and prompted to change wrong answers.
Fabrizi also lamented that the emphasis on standardized tests can cause districts to narrow the curriculum, eliminating "non-essential" subjects such as music, art, physical education and world languages, which are not tested but help schools produce well-rounded students.
Only 28 percent of the teachers said standardized tests are important or essential for gauging students' academic achievement. They far preferred measures such as class participation and on-going class assignments to measure achievement.
Not surprisingly, the survey found that teachers believe family involvement is the most important factor in improving a student's achievement and success in the classroom, followed by high expectations of all students.
Heidi Ahlstrom-Miller, an English teacher at North Branford High School, said there must be a "combination of student-family-school in order to achieve `success."
Teachers also responded that a longer school year would have a more significant impact on student achievement than other efforts, such as longer school days or monetary rewards for teachers based on performance.
Teachers also said they value the community feeling at their schools. Although 75 percent of teachers ranked salary as important to retaining great teachers, they cited other factors such as supportive leaders and peer collaboration as also keeping teachers happy with their jobs.
Brigit D'Angelo, a kindergarten teacher in New Haven "teachers are highly underappreciated and underpaid, especially in an urban setting."
"Primary Sources 2012: America's Teachers on the Teaching Profession," conducted online in July 2011 by the research firm Harrison Group, was the second report from the Gates Foundation to survey America's teachers on their perspectives on the teaching profession. The first report, released in 2009, was the largest national survey of teachers ever conducted.
To read the full report, go to http://www.scholastic.com/primarysources/download.asp.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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