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Teacher Survey Sheds Light on Working Conditions

survey.jpgArizona educators for the first time have the opportunity to share details about what's working and what's not in their schools.

The results gathered through the anonymous online questionnaires, expected to be available in the summer, will be used to tackle any problems the survey brings to light.

The New Teacher Center conducts the survey and guides districts and schools in using the data to create school improvement plans. Since 2008, the nonprofit has gathered feedback from more than 1 million teachers in 20 states. The idea came from a 2002 survey of North Carolina teachers issued to figure out the reasons for high turnover and the difficulty in recruiting and retaining teachers.  

Certified teachers can take the TELL AZ survey until April 28. They'll answer questions about planning time, facilities, and resources, professional development, school and teacher leadership, and other aspects of the school environment that influence teacher effectiveness, according to Dawn Shephard of the New Teacher Center.

For example, the survey asks new teachers about how well their schools support them on the job. Teachers check "Yes" or "No" on whether their schools assign them mentors, release them from classroom duties to observe colleagues in action, and provide them with common planning time.

Other survey questions delve into the specifics of the mentor-teacher relationship, asking what, exactly, the mentor does to support the new teacher, whether by observing or assisting with lesson plans. Still other questions aim to uncover student conduct in the school: Do students follow rules? Do administrators support teachers' discipline efforts?

North Carolina's 2008 survey revealed that teachers across the state felt they didn't have enough time to work on lessons and collaborate with colleagues so the state increased teachers' daily instructional planning time.

"It went from the anecdotal 'I feel like I don't have enough time,' to actual data showing teachers statewide, in districts small and large, saying the same thing, and they were able to change the state statute," Shephard told Education Week.

Based on the data from a 2011 survey of more than 42,000 educators, Kentucky ended up developing teaching-conditions standards deemed critical for teacher and student success. The standards require, for example, that schools have clearly defined student conduct rules and that principals support teachers' efforts to maintain discipline in the classroom. Schools must also provide teachers with appropriate curriculum materials and reliable technology. A nationwide survey shows that teachers and principals often spend their own money on all kinds of resources, from lesson plans to books and magazines. You can read all the Kentucky teaching-conditions standards here.

The Arizona survey became available on Monday. So far, 749 educators have weighed in out of a possible 50,823 educators across the state.

"Teachers' feedback on the state of their profession matters greatly on how Arizona moves forward to address the many challenges facing education, particularly the teacher retention crisis," Bobbie O'Boyle told azednews.com. O'Boyle is the executive director of Arizona Educational Foundation, one of the survey sponsors.

Image: Image by Flickr user Craig Taylor, licensed under Creative Commons

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