Tennessee Educator Survey Offers Actionable Feedback For Improving State, District Policies

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

According to the 2017 Tennessee Educator Survey report and data tool released Wednesday, the overwhelming majority of Tennessee educators believe the evaluation process improves their teaching and professional learning enhances their ability to meet student needs. However, teachers also reported relatively few opportunities for personalized professional learning and difficulties identifying and accessing high-quality instructional materials—two areas where the department has launched new efforts to better support teachers. 

This is the seventh year that the department, in partnership with Vanderbilt University, has surveyed all educators in the state to gain insight and include teachers’ voices in department strategy, policy decisions, and goal-setting. This year, more than 38,000 educators participated in the survey—more than half of all teachers and school administrators in the state and an overall increase of about 5,000 educators over last year—allowing these 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,” Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said. “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.” 

There were four key takeaways from the 2017 survey: 

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 our 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 K-3 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 has been hosting a summer learning series, with the next webinar and release of English learner-specific materials this 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. 

These insights and more can be seen on the 2017 survey website. The online portal allows users to view aggregate statewide teacher and administrator responses, as well as district- and school-specific information, provided they meet or exceed a minimum participation threshold of 45 percent. To view the 2017 Tennessee Educator Survey results and read the report, Educator Insights: Takeaways from the 2017 Educator Survey, visit the department’s site here

For more information about the Tennessee Educator Survey, please contact Nate Schwartz, chief research and strategy officer, at Nate.Schwartz@tn.gov.

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