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'Gen Y' Teacher Characteristics Limned

"Gen Y" teachers want more frequent feedback on their teaching, tend to be more open to shared practice, and say that rewards and sanctions should be differentiated based on performance, a new analysis concludes.

But, while such teachers believe in teacher evaluation, they have concerns about whether it can be done equitably and validly, and they tend to overestimate schools' ability to provide them with up-to-date technology tools, the analysis says.

Put together by the American Institutes of Research and the American Federation of Teachers, the analysis tries to pick out key features of teachers from Gen Y—defined as those born between 1977 and 1995—and their relationship to the profession. It pulls from some 11 different surveys, focus groups with Gen Y teachers, and three case studies in AFT districts.

We're all drowning in teacher surveys, and it's useful to have a compendium of them all in one place. Check the appendix for links to all of the instruments that were reviewed, and in some cases re-analyzed, for this report.

There's nothing particularly surprising about these findings, but they do a good job of playing up one of the big tensions going on these days, especially for these younger, Gen-Y teachers. This generation, with its love of Facebook, Twitter, and social media, wants regular, rapid feedback on its performance. And it's open to making teaching a more transparent, shared process. But formal feedback as part of an evaluation or performance review is still viewed as potentially unfair, frightening, and biased.

The latter finding is interesting in light of a study from last year of teacher evaluation in select charter school networks. In that study, the authors found that evaluation is a much more common practice, but it's also somewhat less formal, often taking on more of a coaching structure. Such a system is somewhat harder to do in K-12 schools, where there's often for legal reasons a clear demarcation between coaching and and formal evaluations.

Hard to say what policymakers across the county now working on evaluation systems are supposed to make of these findings. In any case, it's clear that this is a delicate, difficult balance to strike.

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