What Teachers Think And Where They’re Divided

on Tuesday, Aug. 2nd

While lawmakers were debating the debt ceiling and the economy in Washington, another topic has remained one of the most debated in the country: education.

This past weekend, the Save Our Schools march in Washington D.C. saw approximately 8,000 educators and supporters of education rallying for a different spin on education reform. Their message – amplified by a speech of support from Matt Damon – hopes for reforms that would stop punishing teachers and stop putting all the money towards standardized tests.

The National Center for Education Information (NCEI) puts out an annual report called “Teacher Profiles in the U.S.”, and the 2011 report surveyed 1,076 randomly selected K-12 public school teachers about their perceptions of education reform.

The results show major differences of opinion when it comes to improving the teaching profession, mainly differences between teachers who were prepared in traditional programs (studying education in college, getting a master’s degree in education, college credentialing program) and those who became teachers through non-traditional means (programs like Teach for America, getting emergency credentials, etc.).

Here are some facts that jump out at us:

Demographics:
- 85 percent of the entire teaching population is White.
- More than half of Black and Latino teachers are working in cities, while 28 percent of White teachers teach in cities.

Training:
- As of 2011, 43 percent of the teaching force has a master’s degree as their highest level of education, while 29 percent hold bachelors degrees in education, and 27 percent hold non-education degrees. [This makes sense due to the increase in popularity of programs like Teach for America and New York City Teaching Fellows that heavily recruit college graduates from all backgrounds.]

Experience:
- From 1986 to 2005 the amount of teachers that had more than 25 years of experience went from 15 to 27 percent. But in 2011, that percentage dropped to 17 percent.

- The percentage of teachers with five or fewer years of experience jumped from 18 to 26 percent between 2005 and 2011.

Opinions about what makes a teacher qualified to teach:
- The top two elements that teachers agreed make a qualified teacher: the completion of a teacher preparation program, and evaluation by an administrator with direct classroom observation.

- The bottom two were standardized test scores of students and completion of a skills proficiency test.

What would improve teacher performance?
- Between 1996 and 2011, support for market-driven pay for teachers who teach in high-demand subject areas jumped from 15 to 40 percent.

- The idea of paying teachers based on their job performance went up from 42 percent in 2005 to 59 percent in 2011.

Ways to improve education:
89 percent: Remove ineffective teachers
65 percent: Enact stricter requirements for high school graduation
50 percent: Recruit individuals from other professions to teaching
50 percent: Recruit teachers from the top third of all college grads

Alternatively prepared vs. traditionally prepared teachers:
- 67 percent of alternatively prepared teachers support paying teachers more for working in high-needs schools compared to 49 percent of traditionally prepared teachers.

- 52 percent of alternatively prepared teachers support getting rid of tenure compared to 31 percent of traditionally prepared teachers.

Since 2005, the teacher workforce has diversified drastically in terms of training and ideology.  But the question remains: who is listening to teachers in the education reform movement? Now that teacher voices have been polled, will they make an impact?

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