The survey, Primary Sources 2012: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession, is the second survey of American teachers’ opinions by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A follow-up to their 2010 survey, the 2012 report surveyed more than 10,000 pre-K-12 teachers, considered the largest national teachers survey.
“Primary Sources tells us teachers…want stronger curricula that relate to the real world, and they welcome accountability that’s done thoughtfully and fairly,” said Vicki L. Phillips, Director of Education, College Ready, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “When it comes to evaluations, teachers know what’s good for students is good for them too—multiple measures of their performance and consistent feedback to help them improve.” Other education organizations agree.
“[T]eachers are embracing key education reforms like never before,” said Alix Schroek, Manager of Communications and Legislative Affairs for the Association of American Educators (AAE), the fastest growing national, nonprofit, nonunion teachers’ association. “Overall, the study proves that teachers are indeed responding to the reform rallying cries.”
Fully 92 percent of teachers surveyed said tenure should not protect ineffective teachers; while 80 percent said tenured teachers should be regularly reevaluated. It should take an average of 5.4 years before teachers are awarded tenure, according to survey responses. Most states award tenure after just three years.
Surprisingly, 39 percent of teachers said that tenure should be granted after five to 10 years of teaching. Another 7 percent said tenure decisions should not be based on years of teaching at all.
“People really want to examine tenure more,” explained Scholastic Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Francie Alexander. “Nobody wants tenure to protect teachers who aren’t good.” The Primary Sources survey found that 74 percent of teachers think layoffs should be based on many factors, not just seniority—a finding that matches results from AAE’s 2011 member survey.
Formal principal observations and reviews should happen annually according to 95 percent of teachers surveyed. Importantly, 80 percent of respondents said tenured teachers should also be regularly reevaluated. Using student achievement growth as an evaluation measure was also supported by 85 percent of teachers surveyed.
Teachers largely agree that higher salaries would help teacher retention, with 75 percent of Primary Sources respondents saying higher salaries are essential or very important, but only 16 percent of respondents said merit pay would help keep good teachers. Just 26 percent of teachers said merit pay would have a strong or very strong impact on student achievement. Supportive school leadership and family involvement were ranked most important in terms of teacher retention.
Survey respondents indicate job satisfaction is high among teachers, with 89 percent saying they are satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs. Just 16 percent of teachers said they planned to leave the profession, compared to 29 percent of teachers based on a recent MetLife Survey of the American Teacher.
“Studies like these are critical in promoting needed change in our system,” noted Schroek. “Teachers are on the front lines in American classrooms and deserve a voice in implementing these policies.”