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Survey: Plurality of Teachers Nationwide Say ESSA Is 'Just Another Initiative'

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A national survey of teachers finds that a plurality believe that the Every Student Succeeds Act won't ultimately help schools, while a majority don't think state education agencies have sought enough input from teachers in developing their state ESSA plans.

The survey was commissioned by Educators for Higher Standards, a project of the Collaborative for Student Success (which has advocated on behalf of the Common Core State Standards and aligned assessments), and released on Wednesday. It also found that teachers have mixed views on whether states will ultimately make big changes thanks to ESSA, as well as whether ESSA's increased flexibility for districts will create improved conditions for educators. And in general, teachers said they are pessimistic about the general direction of the nation's public schools.

The Educators for Higher Standards polled 800 teachers, and broke out separate results for "teacher advocacy leaders" who are engaged in education advocacy work. The survey also asked the general public certain questions about education. On a few key questions, those educators involved in educators expressed more optimism about what could happen under ESSA. 

Here are a few notable findings from the survey:

  • The survey showed 43 percent of national teachers said ESSA is "just another initiative that will not result in positive change" while 31 percent say the law "is an opportunity to improve our education system." And 26 percent say they don't know. Teacher advocacy leaders were more optimistic: 51 percent said ESSA is an opportunity to improve, while 33 percent said it's just another initiative, and 15 percent said they don't know. As for the general public? They were in the middle:

  • On ESSA engagement: 52 percent of teachers nationwide disagreed with the statement that their state education department had "sought adequate teacher input in the development of the state ESSA plan." A quarter of those surveyed said they didn't know, while 23 percent agreed. Perhaps not surprisingly, the numbers were more evently split among teacher advocacy leaders: 44 percent said states had sought adequate input from teachers for ESSA, 44 percent said they hadn't, and 12 percent didn't know.
  • A majority of teachers believe that ESSA's requirements for school report cards to be shared directly with parents will have at least a little impact. However, 34 percent said it will only have a little impact, while 28 percent said these report card requirements will lead to a "fair amount" of change, while 13 percent said it will lead to a "great deal" of change. The respective numbers for teacher advocacy leaders are 28 percent, 34 percent, and 26 percent respectively.
  • "Unfortunately, teachers are not exactly hopeful that actual improvement of professional learning opportunities will result from ESSA. When asked whether they believed ESSA would have a positive impact on professional learning, only a third of teachers overall and half of advocacy leaders responded positively," according to the group's report on the survey. And indeed, just 38 percent of teachers believe ESSA flexibility will lead to improved development and recruitment opportunities for educators, while 26 percent said it won't, and 36 percent don't know. 

Debates over the development of these ESSA plans have been contentious, as our colleague Daarel Burnette II reported late last year. 

The Council of Chief State School Officers announced grants earlier this year specifically designed to help states include more (and more diverse) teachers in crafting their state ESSA plans.

There's not much time for states to turn the tide on the specific issue of bolstering teacher engagement in ESSA plan development, however. State plans are due to the federal government either next month or in September. 


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