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What does the 2015 PDK/Gallup Poll tell us about teacher leadership?

The recently released 47th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll tells us a great deal about what the public thinks about teachers, teaching, and school reform. There is a lot to consider about the attitudes of Americans toward school choice and vouchers (yes to the former, no to the latter), as well as high-stakes accountability and the use of student test scores to judge teachers (no to both). This year’s poll offers up new insights into the different takes of our nation’s white and minority citizens.

But here is what intrigues me most: About two-thirds of Americans say there is "too much emphasis on standardized testing" in public schools, and a strong majority—about 8 in 10—believes the effectiveness of their local public schools should be measured by "how engaged the students are with their classwork." Only 14% report "scores that students receive on standardized tests" as "very important" measures of schools' effectiveness. And 55% oppose requirements that "teacher evaluations include how well a teacher's students perform on standardized tests." When asked directly about which approaches would provide the most accurate picture of a student's academic progress, the public favored "examples of the student's work" (38%); "written observations by the teacher" (26%); and "grades awarded by the teacher" (21%). By contrast, "scores on standardized achievement tests" represented only 16% of selections.

These findings suggest that the public strongly trust teachers to make their own judgments about which students are doing well or not. They recognize, from a consumer's point of view, what most researchers claim about the limitations of standardized test scores for high-stakes accountability and particular inaccuracies of using value-added methods to assess effectiveness of individual teachers. Enacting a new kind of accountability system, befitting of what the American people are seeking, will demand more of teachers as leaders of assessment reform, not just analysts of data. It will require them to have time and space, as well as a new set of skills, to serve as learning architects, action researchers, and policy advocates.

But decisionmakers have neglected to provide opportunities for teachers to lead in these bold ways. As my colleague Mark Smylie has noted, while teachers have been “looked to with increasing regularity as agents of school and classroom change,” the stark reality has been that their leadership potential has been tamped down by administrators who “appoint or anoint” them to serve in narrow roles. 

Why is this?

Education historians often point to teachers being held back because teaching, as an intensely female-dominated profession, plays into gender discrimination in the American workplace. Also, researchers have noted the long-standing, highly privatized practice of teaching—which makes effective teacher leaders somewhat invisible to practitioners and policymakers alike. I have seen some school reformers, who are dead set with their answers to closing the achievement gap, resist teacher leaders who are incubating and executing their own ideas (that may run counter to the ideas of reformers).

The good news is that the Internet is rapidly allowing teachers to see directly—and indirectly—what teaching and learning can look like. Teaching is becoming de-privatized. We have learned how teachers, once unknown in their districts, are practicing their leadership skills in the private space of well-facilitated virtual communities—like our own CTQ Collaboratory. Now teachers—often without permission from their supervisors—are showing their colleagues how to teach to the new standards, developing new student assessments with non-profits like the Center for Collaborative Education, and flipping rigid, test score-based teacher evaluation systems on their sides with a peer review process.

We know from several recent polls from PDK that the vast majority of the public trusts teachers. The next step is to make sure the public knows more about teachers who are already leading in the ways they seek—and to help build demand for them among what was once a reluctant policy community.

 

11 Comments

Amy Williams commented on August 25, 2015 at 2:36pm:

Great post!

"Education historians often point to teachers being held back because teaching, as an intensely female-dominated profession, plays into gender discrimination in the American workplace. Also, researchers have noted the long-standing, highly privatized practice of teaching—which makes effective teacher leaders somewhat invisible to practitioners and policymakers alike. I have seen some school reformers, who are dead set with their answers to closing the achievement gap, resist teacher leaders who are incubating and executing their own ideas (that may run counter to the ideas of reformers)."  -- Yes. Thank you for this post! You also make a good point that teachers are branching out and trying to lead on their own. I'm hoping that more "official" leadership positions will be created for teachers, though, since this could increase visibility of teachers as professionals/leaders in their communities.

Barnett Berry Barnett Berry commented on August 25, 2015 at 3:55pm:

Teacher leadership

Thanks Amy. Here are more reasons as to why I am hope-ti-mistic, fully aware of the fact that teachers are the targets of reform, not agents for it (yet).New research keeps surfacing that teacher collaboration stands out as a major route for school improvement. Policy leaders are discovering that top-performing nations like Finland and Singapore have built their success on teacher development and leadership—specifically by intentionally creating policies and programs so that classroom practitioners can learn from each other and spread their expertise in teaching. New online teacher communities surface daily on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Nearly 6 in 10 teachers are now using technology to work with teaching colleagues they would not otherwise know. I will be writing more about this in an upcoming issue of the Kappan. 

 

 

Ellyn Metcalf commented on August 31, 2015 at 10:55pm:

Teacher Leadership

   "The public strongly trust teachers to make their own judgments about which students are doing well or not." Most teachers know who is learning and who is not............often they are not given the opportunity share this insight. Teachers, like all professionals, should receive personal and interpersonal development training throughout their career to assist them in communicating their observations and knowledge about students with colleagues, specialists, administrators, parents, and most importantly, the students themselves.   "It will require them to have time and space, as well as a new set of skills, to serve as learning architects, action researchers, and policy advocates."  Most new teacher evaluation tools describe some of these skills through behavior competencies, but no system is in place to deliver training on them at the district or state level. Until this happens, I completely agree through first hand experience that online educator communities, fellowships, and Teach to Lead are empowering many of us to feel confident that we, teachers, are the most important agents of change in our classrooms, schools, and districts. 

Karen Beattie commented on September 2, 2015 at 10:00am:

Teacher Leadership

It is reassuring to read the results as local perspective consistently supports teacher expertise.  Those involved with "transformational teacher leadership" know that listening to and supporting teacher leaders will result in lasting improvement in education.  Those closest to the students know best.

Wanda Porter commented on September 3, 2015 at 3:50pm:

Teacher's Poll

This helps to dramatize teaching.  It shows their opinions.  What is also helpful is how it demonstrates their thoughts without being ennui.

TT commented on September 5, 2015 at 5:03pm:

Public preschool

No one has mentioned how the current school reform initiatives are based on privatizing for profit! This is the root. The "rephormers" (Rheeformers, deformers) are selling the narrative of failing schools to the public to justify their takeover of the schools. It's all a scam. Teacher-bashing and union-busting is supported by their narrative of failing schools and bad teachers who "have a job for life" -which WE know is not true. Tenure means a right to due process, but they never mention that. The laypeople believe what they are told. So why would they want to give teachers any say or power? It would defeat their purpose of making a buck from public funding, our tax dollars!

Barnett Berry Barnett Berry commented on September 14, 2015 at 9:20pm:

get it!

Thanks TT. The good news is that parents trust teachers and waiting for the profession to advance a new narrative!

 

Alysia Krafel commented on September 5, 2015 at 9:50pm:

Thank You

Great post. I personally work in a teacher-powered school and I know from first hand experience that teachers can and do lead schools very effectively and that students prosper when teachers do this. I know many, many teachers who are so frustrated and sad that their talents and gifts are disregarded by administrators.  They are so tired of being attacked and judged when they themselves have so little control of education in this country.  It is interesting that the public supports the teachers to lead and think by large margins that teachers know what they are doing and administrators and political reformers do not. You may have nailed it when you point out that this may fundamentally be a gender issue.  Most teachers are women and most administrators at all levels are men. So very true. Just like women used to be all the nurses and doctors were only men. We have no choice other than to keep knocking on the doors of power to let us in. Go girls!

Barnett Berry Barnett Berry commented on September 6, 2015 at 8:36am:

Keep knocking

Alysia. thanks so much for your thoughtful response. I wonder what role the teachers' union will play in helping teachers organize around their teaching effectiveness (and that does not mean test scores as defined today) as opposed to bread and butter issues. And how can unions -- like like the one in Seattle  now -- use strong tactics to support students' issues (more recess for young students and elimination of too many, harmful tests) not just better pay (after no salary increases in 6 years). Advancing teacher leadership must tend to power and politics, but also in the transformation of what collective bargaining has been for most teachers, administrators, and the public. If teachers' unions take on more responsibility for good teaching, will mroe teachers like you be able to lead more boldly? I think so.What do you think?

 

 

Ellyn Metcalf commented on October 2, 2015 at 10:56pm:

Teacher Leadership

Yes!  The unions must take on more responsibility for good teaching and provide leadership development opportunities (not just for union leadership positions) to truly become the professional organization for teachers. Two years ago, a group of 50 teachers participated in a national fellowship that published a document entitled "Rock the Union."  This document strongly recommended in detail to NEA what you are suggesting.  The Teacher Leadership Initiative (TLI)  that NEA rolled out a few years ago is a step in the right direction, but it must be scaled to have real impact on our profession.  Having served in the military for 20 years and now teaching for several years, I believe that effective teachers are leaders, especially in their classrooms.  Developing as a leader is a life long journey and our unions are perfectly poised to take on this role.  

 

Alan D'Aurora commented on September 14, 2015 at 9:09pm:

I had no idea...

Thank you for this article and the thought-provoking statistical information it contained.  Very eye-opening!

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