Teachers share their views on how to improve education

The survey also showed that a teacher’s job doesn’t end at 3 p.m. Seven of 10 teachers said they attend their students’ after-school and weekend events. More than half (51 percent) 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.


Besides voicing their opinion on the challenges that education is facing, teachers also gave their opinions on solutions to those challenges.

The survey identifies five solutions given by teachers:

1. Establish clear standards, common across states. Nationwide, 74 percent of teachers said clearer standards would make a strong or very strong impact on student achievement, with only 4 percent saying they would have no impact at all. Sixty percent said common standards would have a strong or very strong impact on student achievement, and only 10 percent said they would have no impact at all.

2. Use multiple measures to evaluate student performance. Ninety-two percent of teachers said ongoing in-classroom assessment is either very important or absolutely essential in measuring student performance, while only 27 percent said the same of state-required standardized tests.

3. Innovate to reach today’s students. More than 90 percent said differentiated assignments are absolutely essential for improving student achievement and engaging students in learning. Also, 81 percent of teachers reported that current information-based technology that is well integrated into the classroom is absolutely essential or very important in raising student achievement.

4. Accurately measure teacher performance, and provide non-monetary rewards. Only 22 percent of teachers indicated that principal observation is a very accurate measure of their effectiveness. Yet, more than half of teachers said that student academic growth (60 percent) and student engagement (55 percent) are very accurate measures of teacher performance. Fewer than half of teachers said higher salaries are absolutely essential for retaining good teachers, and only 8 percent said pay-for-performance is absolutely essential.

5. Bridge school and home to raise student achievement. Eight of 10 high school teachers (81 percent) attend students’ after-school and weekend events, and more than half of elementary school teachers are willing to have parent-teachers conferences at students’ homes.

“‘Primary Sources’ tells us that teachers see a need for stronger curriculum that relates to the real world, clear academic standards from grade to grade, and reliable data on student learning,” said the Gates Foundation’s Phillips. “The survey tells us that what’s good for students and student achievement is good for teachers, too—in fact, it’s what they want.”

“The survey results are significant and come at a time when there is far too much scapegoating of teachers by those who ought to know better,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a statement.

“Teachers are willing to go the extra mile to help students succeed, but they need tools, time, trust, and support to do their jobs well. As the survey shows, teachers know better than most what students need and feel strongly that they must be a real partner with school leadership in designing improvement plans.”

According to the survey’s sponsors, every state was represented in the survey, and at every grade level. Participants ranged from those who teach in one-room schools in rural communities to those in affluent suburbs and large urban districts. Teachers of English-language learners and special-needs students also are represented.

The study’s size and scope allows for analysis of teachers’ views by grade, income level, years of experience, and more. The report also provides an in-depth look at state-by-state data, revealing differences in teacher views from one state to another.

The survey was conducted by phone and online from mid-March to mid-June 2009.


“Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on America’s Schools” (PDF)

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Scholastic Inc.

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Enterprising Instruction resource center. Using data to inform instruction is one of the Obama administration’s keys to effective school reform, and technology is helping a growing number of educators accurately identify their students’ needs and deliver targeted—and timely—interventions when appropriate. To benefit fully from such a data-driven instructional model, schools need a system for tying their instructional and administrative processes together—in effect, bringing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) approach to the classroom. Go to:

Enterprising Instruction

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