Kentucky teachers set a national record in responding to a statewide working conditions survey in 2011, and the results are being used at the state and local levels to improve leadership, professional development and student learning.
Reports on the survey and its impact provided the focus of the recent meeting of the Prichard Committee’s Team on Teacher Effectiveness. The 35-member group of educators, legislators, policy leaders and advocates is reviewing all elements of the teaching profession with a December 2013 goal of recommending improvements.
The Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning, or TELL Kentucky, survey was administered online in the spring of 2011 by the New Teacher Center to assess teacher working conditions at the school, district and state level. The nonprofit New Teacher Center, headquartered in Santa Cruz, Calif., works to improve teacher effectiveness through mentoring and professional development programs.
More than 42,000 Kentucky educators – an 80 percent response rate – participated in the survey. School, district and state results are online at www.tellkentucky.org.
Ann Maddock, a senior policy advisory at the New Teacher Center, provided an overview for the Teacher Effectiveness Team:
• Overall, Kentucky educators are satisfied with the teaching and learning conditions in their schools.
• Teachers are most concerned with issues of time and managing student conduct.
• Findings vary considerably across districts and individual schools within a district.
In teachers’ views, Maddock noted, community support and involvement is the strongest element related to school-level student performance and, along with school leadership, strongly influences teachers’ future employment plans, or teacher retention.
The survey also reflected the different opinions that teachers in high- and low-performing schools have about issues affecting support for teachers and student behavior. For example, nearly 85 percent of teachers in the highest-performing elementary schools reported that parents and guardians provide support for teachers and contribute to their success with students while only 54 percent of teachers in the lowest-performing schools held that opinion. Nearly 90 percent of teachers in the high-performing schools reported that students in their schools follow rules of conduct; 62 percent of teachers in the low-performing schools thought that was true of their students.
Maddock said Kentucky policy leaders and administrators “have done a remarkable job of making sure the TELL Kentucky data from 2011 does not just sit on a shelf.”
Julia Rawlings of the Kentucky Department of Education told the team members that she used the survey results to guide leadership improvements and to develop department-level action plans in a low-performing high school. “There are tons of very valuable information that come from the use of the data,” she said.
The team also heard from educators from two schools – Knox Central High School and South Heights Elementary School in Henderson County – who discussed the impact of teaching conditions on their efforts to improve student achievement. Knox Central Principal Tim Melton noted that systemic change, having a sense of urgency and being transparent about improvement efforts are important elements for turning around a low-performing school.
The TELL Kentucky survey will be administered again in the spring of 2013.