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Survey: Teachers want more access to technology, collaboration

Teachers said more access to technology and opportunities to collaborate with their colleagues would greatly help their instruction.

The second part of a national survey on college and career readiness and the challenges facing U.S. teachers reveals that educators consider the ability to differentiate instruction for their students as essential for students’ success—and more access to technology will help them do this, they say.

MetLife’s “Survey of the American Teacher: Preparing Students for College and Careers” looks at student differences, how teachers are addressing them, and how well students feel their needs are being met. The first part of the survey, “Part 1: Clearing the Path,” released earlier this month, examines what college- and career-ready means for different stakeholders.

Given limited resources, teachers say opportunities for collaborative teaching (65 percent), access to online and technology resources (64 percent), better tools for understanding students’ learning strengths and needs (63 percent), and instructional strategies for teaching English language learners (62 percent) would have a major impact on their ability to address the different learning needs of individual students.

“Teachers say that more opportunities for collaboration with other teachers and greater access to technology and other instructional tools would significantly improve their ability to help diverse learners succeed, both now and in the future,” according to the report.

Teachers in schools where more than two-thirds of students are from low-income families are more likely than those with one-third or fewer low-income students to say that the following resources would have a major impact on their ability to effectively address the different learning needs of individual students: access to online and other technology-based resources to help personalize education (72 percent vs. 59 percent); better tools for understanding students’ learning strengths and needs (70 percent vs. 56 percent); instructional strategies to teach effectively in a classroom where many students speak a language other than English (69 percent vs. 58 percent); and the availability of a learning expert (57 percent vs. 42 percent).

Forty-six percent of teachers said more knowledge about neuroscience, brain development, and how students learn would have a major impact on their ability to address students’ different learning needs.

A significant majority of middle and high school teachers (61 percent) say they are able to differentiate instruction “a great deal” to meet the varying learning needs of students in their classrooms. Their confidence in this ability to effectively customize their teaching for each student, however, varies by subject. Math teachers are the least likely (46 percent) to say they are able to differentiate instruction a great deal to help their students, compared with higher numbers of English teachers (60 percent) and teachers of other non-math and English subjects (65 percent).

Teachers’ confidence in their abilities to meet the needs of several types of learners also depends on their school. Teachers in schools with a college-going school culture—that is, with high proportions of students who will graduate college-ready—are more likely than others to say they are able to differentiate instruction. Among teachers who report that at least three-quarters of students in their school will graduate high school ready for college, 70 percent say they are able to differentiate instruction a great deal. Among teachers who say less than three-quarters of students will graduate high school ready for college, only 50 percent say the same.

While students overall give teachers a grade of B- on average for teaching individual students according to their abilities and needs, students who need the most help have a less positive opinion. Students who have considered dropping out of school are four times as likely as other students to give their teachers a grade of D or F (45 percent vs. 11 percent). Learning-challenged students are also more likely to give their teachers a D or F in this area (19 percent vs. 14 percent).

The survey also examines the attitudes of parents, teachers, and executives toward a number of solutions proposed to help improve American education. Adult stakeholders’ opinions are divided as to whether using measurements of teacher effectiveness that are based in significant part on student achievement growth should be a priority that takes precedence over others, given limited resources. A huge majority of parents (92 percent) and executives (97 percent) believe such measurements should be a priority. However, 27 percent of teachers say that no additional resources should be devoted to it.

More than 90 percent of all middle and high school teachers surveyed say that strengthening programs and resources to help diverse learners with the highest needs meet college- and career-ready standards should be a priority in education. Among that group, 59 percent say helping diverse learners “must be done as one of the highest priorities in education.”

A large majority of parents of middle and high school students in the survey (84 percent) also say that addressing the needs of diverse learners should be a priority, including 57 percent who say it must be done as a “highest priority” in education.

Most business executives from Fortune 1000 companies also agree that the needs of diverse learners should be a priority (89 percent), but significantly fewer (31 percent), in contrast to teachers and parents, rate it among the highest priorities for education.

Many policy makers have championed a goal of graduating every student from high school ready for college and a career regardless of their income, race, ethnic or language background, or disability status. The new survey—the 27th in an annual series commissioned by MetLife and conducted by Harris Interactive—compares the perspectives on this emerging national goal of key stakeholders: middle and high school teachers, students and parents, and business executives from Fortune 1000 companies as a voice of employers.

MetLife’s 2009 study found that girls have higher expectations for their education and more confidence about achieving their goals. This year’s survey finds that a gender gap in college aspirations emerges in high school.

“While girls and boys in middle school do not differ in their aspirations for college, high school girls are more likely than boys to say it is very likely they will go to college (83 percent vs. 71 percent) and to say that they plan on getting a bachelor’s or higher-level degree (83 percent vs. 72 percent),” the report says.

The survey “reveals some troubling gaps in perceptions and differences on priorities that will need to be better understood and addressed if the nation’s educational aspirations are to be realized,” the report says. “While students and adults in the survey agree on the importance of being prepared, students’ expectations for college-going on average are higher than the expectations their teachers and potential employers have for them.”

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