Knox Co. teacher survey: Great turnout, but now what?

Of 3,927 teachers in Knox County Schools, 3,494 responded to a survey examining their thoughts about the administration, classroom control and a good many other questions. That’s more than 88 percent. Great turnout. Better than most elections, by far.

After reading Lydia’s story this morning, I had a couple of questions about how the survey was put together. And it was interesting to hear McIntyre say that instructional autonomy is a concern – it’ll be interesting to see how the school system responds.

A clever pollster can skew poll results in any direction, depending upon how the questions are asked and how many people participate. Here you have a super-big turnout, so that lends credence to the answers. Let’s check out a few of the results, and ask a few open-ended questions:

I think all professionally licensed teachers in TEAM schools should have both state-required classroom observations be unannounced. – Nearly 3 of 4 teachers don’t want the unannounced visits. No surprise there. Few people enjoy a random drop-in from bosses.

Teachers in my school/district have the opportunity to provide input regarding the district’s strategic direction. – 60 percent of teachers disagree or strongly disagree with this, and it’s worth looking at the next question for more context …

Teachers in my school/district are trusted to make sound professional decisions about instruction. – A larger proportion, 68 percent of teachers strongly disagree or disagree with this statement. Where does this perception of a lack of trust come from? Is this the result of top-down regulations? Eroded sovereignty in classroom decision-making for teachers? Is this indicative of an overhaul and standardization of an education system that strips creative license from individual teachers – or the perception of creative license/ability to make individual lesson plans? Either way, it kind of leads to this …

Teachers in my school/district are recognized as educational experts. – 68 percent, again, on the disagree/strongly disagree side of the equation. This appears to be an if-then matter. If an individual doesn’t feel trusted to make “sound professional decisions,” then they aren’t likely to feel recognized as education experts. That said, what defines an education expert from an expert in a certain subject? One’s ability to know something may or may not translate to an ability to teach the subject. Conversely, there are many non-experts who make fantastic teachers. Clearly, this reflects a sense of a lack of respect – which I think is something that teachers get frequently as a part of their career. But would another be the result of directive coming from up on high – the feeling that their knowledge is being subverted by a group of bosses telling them what to do? Which is …

Teachers in my school/district have autonomy to make decisions about instructional delivery (i.e. pacing, materials and pedagogy). … backed up by the 69 percent of teachers who disagree/strongly disagree with that statement.

Keep in mind that this poll is a snapshot, and I’m uncertain that there is a baseline (has a similar poll been conducted in the past – before Common Core?). Anecdotally, some teachers say that things are worse, but some also say things are better. Part of this surely is based in emotional responses (whether right or wrong) to real and perceived changing workplaces. A lot of this could also be based in the reality of a system that’s being thrust upon educators – a kind of “build the plane as it takes off” (or whatever the colloquialism is) – to bring students along better, smarter and so on. This, while they also manage meager pay, fluctuating class size, increasing/changing responsiblity and ever-changing family dynamics of their students that can leave a person drained after a day of caring for their students as individuals. And the technology changes. Teaching appears to have moved past the days of the Three R’s and chalkdust, and into the information age. How’s that going? Well, this is just one survey, but appears to be a telling one …


About Gerald

A journalist in Knoxville, TN. Work (mostly) inside and play (mostly) outside. I'm a part of the X or the Y generation. None of us claim the other.
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