Tennessee teachers surveyed this past spring reported frustration with statewide standardized exams, while administrators surveyed showed more confidence in them.
A majority of teachers disagreed with the statement, “Overall, information received from statewide standardized exams is worth the investment of time and effort.” Sixty-five percent disagreed, while only 35 percent agreed. For administrators, it was nearly the reverse. Thirty-eight percent disagreed, while 62 percent agreed with the statement.
More than 38,000 educators completed the extensive annual Tennessee Educator Survey created by the Tennessee Department of Education and Vanderbilt University’s Tennessee Education Research Alliance. That number represents 56 percent of the state’s teachers and 60 percent of administrators.
Other findings included teachers’ frustration with what they view as insufficient instructional and planning time. A big drain on their time, according to survey results, is a program called Response to Intervention (RTI²) designed to help struggling students. According to a summary of the findings, teachers are burdened with administering screenings, using progress monitoring tools and meeting with other teachers and administrators, as well as fitting intervention periods into their schedules.
Teachers, especially those new to the classroom, also expressed concerns about the amount of time needed to address student behavior. The survey results also raised concerns about the number of new initiatives thrown at teachers.
Said one teacher, “There are so many different initiatives, resources, and standards that I have been introduced to in my seven short years of teaching. I have no idea what is going to happen next. It’s hard to take new things seriously when I know they will be forgotten about in two years. All the new initiatives have been great, but it’s just too much.”
While the survey raises alarms, Bethany Bowman, director of professional learning for Professional Educators of Tennessee, also believes it has some silver linings. She wrote in a press release, “The good news is that 1) the Tennessee Department of Education actually surveys their educators and 2) they are making adjustments to some of the procedures based on the survey results. Also after each section of the survey, there are recommendations and “next steps” listed for the schools and districts to implement. This is helpful for districts, as well as teachers. The survey is not a miracle-cure, but it is a good foundation.”
Tennessee teachers have become more familiar with the evaluation process. Any poll question can be taken at face value. We hear from our members that evaluators are better trained today and provide better feedback. We must continually look at the element of support provided by districts to teachers. Teachers need detailed feedback from competent and trained evaluators, as well as opportunities for collaboration connected specifically to that feedback. There is still room for improvement; when 25% of the educators do not feel that evaluation improves instruction, there is still room for concern. However, it is a positive step forward in comparison to the previous surveys.