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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 10/23/2009

What teachers think about their jobs, testing

By Valerie Strauss

Federal officials take note: A new study shows that 40 percent of the country’s 4 million K-12 teachers are “disheartened” about their jobs. The vast majority think that there is too much standardized testing and that it is a “drawback” to teaching.

Called “Teaching for a Living: How Teachers See the Profession Today,” the study was conducted by the nonprofit, non-partisan Public Agenda with the Learning Point Associates and released in association with Education Week.

The results on teacher perception of standardized testing should be noted by federal policy-makers who are doling out billions of federal dollars for reform efforts.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has disappointed many educators who had hoped that he would change the strong emphasis the Bush administration had placed on standardized testing. He hasn’t.

A 2003 Public Agenda survey of teachers asked different questions, though included some on standardized testing. Then 53 percent of polled teachers said standardized tests were seriously flawed.

Here are the results of the latest survey, said to be representative of the country's public school teaching corps. They are in list form, since Friday is list day on The Sheet:

*Forty percent are "disheartened" and are more likely to:
--Have been teaching more than 10 years and are older than 32.
--Teach in low-income schools.
--Give their principals poor ratings for supporting them.
--Express concerns about working conditions, student behavior and testing.
Seventy percent of this group see standardized testing as a major drawback and 25 percent consider it a minor drawback.

*Twenty-three percent are "idealists" and are more likely to:
--Have been teaching less than 10 years.
--Be elementary school teachers.
--Say they became teachers to help disadvantaged students.
--Believe their students’ test scores have increased a lot because of the quality of their teaching.
--Say that good teachers can help all students to learn, including those from families with unsupportive parents.
Fifty-two percent of this group sees testing as a major drawback and 42 percent consider it a minor drawback.

*Thirty-seven percent are"contented" and are more likely to:
--Report excellent working conditions.
--Have been teaching for more than 10 years and have stayed at their current schools for at least that long.
--Work in middle- or higher-income schools.
--Believe their students' test scores have increased a lot because of their teaching.
--Have a master’s degree or higher.
Forty-nine percent of this group see standardized testing as a major drawback and 34 percent consider it a minor drawback.

A big majority in all groups said:
--Reducing class size by approximately 5 students would “very” much improve teacher effectiveness.
--Having the latest available technology in each classroom would “very” much improve teacher effectiveness.

By Valerie Strauss  | October 23, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Standardized Tests, Teachers  | Tags:  standardized testing, teachers  
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