However, teachers also reported relatively few opportunities for personalized professional learning and difficulties identifying and accessing high-quality instructional materials – two areas where the Tennessee Department of Education has launched new efforts to better support teachers.
This is the seventh year the department, in partnership with Vanderbilt University, surveyed all educators in the state to gain insight and include teachers' voices in department strategy, policy decisions and goal setting.
More than 38,000 educators participated in the survey this year – more than half of all teachers and school administrators in the state and an overall increase of about 5,000 educators compared to last year – allowing the results to further reflect the experiences of more Tennessee educators.
"The educator survey provides a unique opportunity to learn from our most valuable partners: our educators who are with our students in schools and classrooms every day," said state education Commissioner Candice McQueen. "The Tennessee Educator Survey gives us feedback that helps us at the state level, as well as in districts and schools, to reflect on our practices and policies so we can continue to improve."
Four key takeaways from the 2017 survey include:
• The growth in the positive opinion about evaluation has improved steadily over the past several years.
The 2012 educator survey was the first year teacher evaluation was implemented in Tennessee, and results that year indicated that only 38 percent of educators reported the process helped improve their teaching. In 2017, 74 percent of educators say evaluation has led to improvements in their teaching. Teachers who find evaluation most useful also receive more feedback, paired with adequate time, materials and access to staff expertise.
• Additionally, while teachers report relatively few opportunities for personalized professional learning, three-quarters of teachers say generally the professional learning they do receive enhances their abilities to meet students' needs.
At the same time, about half of teachers report that they take part at least once a month in a professional learning activity that they do not perceive as helpful. The department is continuing to work with districts to ensure teachers consistently receive high-quality, tailored professional development so that schools increasingly become places where educators are encouraged to grow and improve as professionals. This past year, the department launched a personalized professional learning pilot with several dozen teachers to allow them the chance to develop specific skills and earn micro-credentials, which it will continue to scale up this year.
• Tennessee teachers reported difficulties identifying and accessing high-quality instructional materials, with the average kindergarten through third-grade reading teacher spending 4.5 hours per week creating or sourcing materials.
The department is working with teachers to create model literacy unit starters with associated text sets to help educators enhance instruction aligned to Tennessee standards. Additionally, the department has created a new "how-to" manual for teaching literacy and held a summer learning series, with the next webinar and release of English learner-specific materials Thursday to help strengthen instruction in early grades reading for students.
• The 2017 survey results also show that most teachers feel their classroom time is protected, with minimal disruption to their instruction periods. However, survey results also point to specific threats to instructional time such as the amount of time that some teachers – especially those early in their careers –devote to classroom management and disciplinary issues.
To view the 2017 Tennessee Educator Survey results and read the report, Educator Insights: Takeaways from the 2017 Educator Survey, visit educatorsurvey.tnk12.gov.