More Thoughts on Teacher Polls, Tenure, and School Funding

Over at The Nation I have a new piece looking at surveys of public school teachers, one of which found job satisfaction at its lowest point since 1989. The most important thing to note is that polling shows teachers are not unhappy because they resent new accountability policies like the more stringent teacher evaluations instituted in response to President Obama's Race to the Top program. In fact, most teachers support using multiple measures of student learning to assess educators, and most believe it should take longer to earn tenure (an average of 5.4 years according to the Gates/Scholastic poll) than it currently does (an average of 3.1 years across all states). 

Critics of tenure will say the system shouldn't exist at all. But it takes a long time to shift opinion within a profession, and the polls show teachers have already evolved significantly. What's more, huge policy changes on tenure are already underway. Since 2009, the majority of states passed legislation significantly weakening teachers' job security. In Colorado, for example, teachers will lose their seniority protections if they receive a bad performance evaluation two years in a row.

The big remaining question is how these new evaluations will work, and teachers are worried student standardized test scores will be weighed too heavily. School budget cuts are the other major reason teachers are unhappy, and that's where I focus the new column. I dive into the latest research on school finance and teacher turnover to show that–contrary to popular belief–money very much does matter in school reform. 

The piece appeared in print so there are unfortunately no hyperlinks embedded, but here are some sources I mention:

  • Bruce Baker's report "Does Money Matter in Education?"
  • Information on Lobato v. Colorado, the case in which Judge Sheila Rappaport ruled her state's school funding scheme discriminates against poor children and low-income school districts
  • New paper on "How teacher turnover harms student achievement" 

Read the Nation piece here

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