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Survey Finds Growing Support Among Teachers For Policies That Place Performance Ahead Of Seniority

October 22, 2012

BOSTON – Teachers who entered the profession in the last decade have more favorable attitudes to standards and accountability than their more veteran colleagues, according to a panel of teachers who participated in a Capitol Hill forum on Monday. The panel highlighted the findings of a new report released by Boston-based non-profit Teach Plus, which compared teachers who entered the profession after the 2001 enactment of No Child Left Behind to their colleagues who entered before the advent of the sweeping education accountability law. The teachers, including 2012 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Adam Gray, told policymakers that they value data and see a role for student performance data in their own evaluations.

The report, Great Expectations: Teachers’ Views on Elevating the Teaching Profession, indicates that the incoming generation of teachers voices growing support for policies that place performance ahead of seniority. At the same time, they express similar opinions to their veteran colleagues on the need for more collaboration time and the importance of not increasing class size.

Policymakers responded enthusiastically to the report. Representative George Miller (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, said, “Students will not do well in school if they are not taught by well-prepared and engaged teachers. Teachers coming into the profession today will play a critical role in shaping our next generation of engineers, innovators and entrepreneurs. If we’re serious about closing the achievement gap, ending the high school dropout crisis, and regaining our global competitiveness, then we have to be serious about supporting teachers.”

For the first time in recent history, teachers with 10 or fewer years in the classroom make up more than 50% of the teaching force. Teach Plus wanted to determine if this growing demographic group would also usher in shifting attitudes toward critical issues in education policy. To find out, the non-profit administered an online survey to more than 1,000 teachers nationwide, a sample that was representative of the teaching force with respect to years of classroom experience.

The results suggest that while a majority of all teachers agree that clear standards of effectiveness will strengthen the profession, there is also a generational split in terms of how teacher effectiveness should be measured and how and when it should be taken into account. Teachers who joined the profession in the last decade tend to be more receptive to the use of student growth data in evaluation, as well as performance-based tenure and compensation systems, and they believe high standards and greater accountability will elevate the profession.

“When this generation of teachers entered the profession, the magnitude of the achievement gap had been quantified, and closing gaps among racial groups and across income levels motivates the commitment to teaching for so many. They want good data to know that their efforts are helping students,” said Celine Coggins, CEO of Teach Plus, of the findings.

As Allison Frieze, a fourth-year teacher and current Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow, wrote in the Washington Post on keeping teachers of her generation, “We want to be challenged, and we won’t settle for any form of mediocrity—not from our students, not from our peers, and especially not from ourselves.”