Gallup: Most teachers aren’t ‘engaged’

Only 31 percent of teachers are “engaged” in their work,  according to a new Gallup report, State of America’s Schools.

“Engaged” teachers are “involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work . . . know the scope of their jobs and constantly look for new and better ways to achieve outcomes.”

Just over half (56%) are “not engaged” — meaning they may be satisfied with their jobs, but they are not emotionally connected to their workplaces and are unlikely to devote much discretionary effort to their work.

About one in eight (13%) are “actively disengaged” — meaning they are dissatisfied with their workplaces and likely to be spreading negativity to their coworkers.

Looking at the average U.S. worker, 30 percent are engaged, Gallup estimates.

Compared to other workers, teachers are more likely to say they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day at work.

However, “teachers are dead last among the occupational groups Gallup surveyed in terms of their likelihood to say their opinions seem to count at work.” Teachers also ranked last in believing their supervisor creates an “open and trusting environment.”

Fifty-five percent of students say they’re engaged and only 17 percent are “actively disengaged,” Gallup found. However, students become less engaged as they get older. 

In a 2009 Gallup study, “a one-percentage-point increase in a school’s student engagement GrandMean was associated with a six-point increase in reading achievement and an eight-point increase in math achievement scores.”

Poll: Teachers don’t get no respect

While nearly four in five Americans (79 percent) believe students respected teachers when they were in school, only 31 percent say students respect teachers today, according to a Harris Poll.

Parents and teachers used to respect each other, say 91 percent of respondents.  These days, only 49 percent said parents respect teachers and 64 percent said teachers respect parents.

When they were in school, 86 percent said teachers respected students, but only 61 percent say that is true today. Adults said administrators’ respect for teacher has declined too: 88 percent believe the administration respected teachers when they were in school, while 58 percent say that’s true today.

Teacher pensions benefit administrators

School superintendents and administrators have no incentive to reform teachers’ pensions, write a trio of University of Missouri economists. Administrators “reap the largest benefits” from the pension system, write Cory Koedel,  Shawn Ni and Michael Podgursky in Education Next.

. . . the pension system transfers wealth from lower-income professionals to higher-income professionals. Beginning teachers are subsidizing a handsome payoff to better-paid administrators, who are the appointed guardians of the public interest in the education system.

Virtually all public school teachers and administrators benefit from generous defined-benefit retirement plans. A Missouri teacher with 30 years of experience earns 75 percent of her final average salary. The median retirement age is 56. Superintendents and other administrators get more for their pension contribution than senior teachers.

There’s no evidence these pension plans improve the quality of the teaching workforce, the economists write.

It seems likely that schools could do a better job of recruiting young teachers by putting money in upfront salaries rather than in end-of-career pension benefits.

Given the powerful incentives that are in place, there is no reason to expect school administrators or their organizations to support reforms that would provide a more modern and mobile retirement system for young educators, like those found in nearly all other professional employment settings.

When it comes to pensions, “labor and management are on the same side of the bargaining table,” they conclude.

Colleges hire 75% more administrators

Massachusetts colleges and universities hired 75 percent more administrators in the last 25 years, three times the rate of enrollment growth. Officials say they need to provide more student services and cope with more federal regulations.

All 11 million community college students and 1,200 community college presidents should demand equitable funding for community colleges, which serve the neediest students, writes a professor. If protest doesn’t work, litigate.

Union asks teachers to evaluate principals

Scranton teachers are evaluating their principals at two elementary schools, reports the Times-Tribune. The Scranton Federation of Teachers, which voted “no confidence” in district administrators in November, plans to expand the effort to all principals and administrators, up to the superintendent.

The evaluation forms include a ranking scale with questions ranging from the visibility of a principal to whether the principal collaborates with teachers. Comments can also be made, and the surveys are anonymous.

If this is not just a gotcha, it could prove useful.

Pennsylvania plans to implement a principal evaluation system in the 2014-15 school year.

Professional development doesn’t pay off

Most professional development is a waste of time and money, writes Rick Hess. “Teachers are routinely subjected to fly-by consulting or enthusiastic workshops, without any sustained focus on particular problems or figuring how to use time, talent, and tools to solve them.”

The total cost — including salaries, substitutes, travel, etc. — could reach $8,000 to $12,000 annually per teacher, reports Knowledge Delivery Systems (KDS).

“Yet hardly any of this actually appears to make teachers better,” writes Hess, citing a 2007 review of the research by the Institute of Education Sciences.

Perhaps the most damning indictment of PD is the fact that even teachers themselves regard it with contempt. Eric Hirsch, director of special projects with The New Teacher Center at the University of California, Santa Cruz, observes, “When you ask teachers what conditions matter most in terms of their future career plans and student learning, professional development has come in last on every survey we’ve done.”

Roxanna Elden, author of See Me After Class, wryly grouses that professional development is provided in sessions with names like, “Unlock the Sunshine! Shedding Light on the Opportunities Created by State Assessment 2.0.” She explains, “Usually, these sessions use PowerPoint presentations to [tell] teachers that rigor is important, suggest[ing] we’ve spent most of the year training our students to make different colored Play-Doh balls.”

Training programs for administrators “emphasize culture, coaching, and consensus above all else,” writes Hess in his new book, Cage-Busting Leadership. “After all, if one is disinclined to rethink staffing or spending, replace employees, reward excellence, or root out mediocrity, hoping you can train staff to be better at their jobs is really all you’ve got left.”

The school staffing surge

Between 1992 and 2009, the number of public school students grew by 17 percent, teachers by 32 percent and administrators and support staff by 46 percent, estimates The School Staffing Surge, a Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice report.

Before and after No Child Left Behind was passed, school staffs grew at more than double the rate of enrollment growth, writes Benjamin Scafidi. Schools hired more teachers — and a lot more support staff and administrators.

Compared to other nations’ schools, U.S. public schools devote significantly higher fractions of their operating budgets to non-teaching personnel—and lower portions to teachers.

. . . For example, Maine experienced an 11 percent decline in students from 1992-2009; however, the number of public school personnel increased by 35 percent. Perhaps more noteworthy during that period is the number of teachers in Maine public schools increased by 3 percent while the number of non-teaching personnel increased by 76 percent.

The staffing sure did not lead to improvements in student achievement or graduation rates, the study found.

If non-teaching personnel had grown at the same rate as the growth in students and if the teaching force had grown “only” 1.5 times as fast as the growth in students, American public schools would have an additional $37.2 billion to spend per year, Scafidi writes. Among other things, that would be enough to give every teacher a $11,700 per year raise, double taxpayer funding for preschool, give $2,600 in cash — or a $2,600 school voucher — to the parents of each child living in poverty. Or the taxpayers could get a break.

Why I quit teaching

Teaching ate me alive, writes Peter Hirzel, an architect turned math teacher, on Salon. After 10 years teaching in Los Angeles, he quit.

It wasn’t one single incident that made me quit teaching in a public middle school. It was the steady, moldy accumulation of dehumanizing, lifeless, squalid misadventures of which I was a part.

One day, he said something — he’s not sure what — to upset “Carlos.” The next day, Carlos’ father and several uncles came to school with baseball bats looking for his classroom.

My friend the Dean of Students had diplomatically suggested (they) . . . accompany him to his office, where the matter could be discussed at leisure. My friend the Dean assured me that the bats were for dramatic effect only; that they did not intend to use them and that they only wanted to put the whammy on my head in a metaphorical sense.

“Mission accomplished,” I said. But you can’t suspend a kid just because his dad and an assortment of uncles threaten to metaphorically beat you to death with baseball bats. So the next day, there was Carlos, in class. No notebook, no pencil, no homework, no nothin’. Just a metaphorical baseball bat poised over my head. And the distinct sense that I had to mind my p’s and q’s with Carlos because the folks at home cared about him, after their fashion.

He couldn’t take it any more.

Hirzel started teaching to “make a difference,” he writes. “I thought I could save humanity from its ignorance, cupidity and deceit one youngster at a time.” His failure is his own fault . . . But the administrators didn’t help.

First, there are far too many of them. Far, far too many. A lot too many. A toiletful too many. Put ‘em out to pasture. Paying for early retirement has got to be cheaper than paying for their mistakes. As they say about the government in general: If you hate the problem, wait ’til you see our solution!

Second, they are all, in my experience, more or less the same interchangeable, vaporous nonentity. Drifting through the halls with a walkie-talkie, unburdened by care or shame, hurrying off to some monumentally inconsequential three-hour off-site meeting, with nothing but a pot of coffee and two brain cells between them, where a plan will be hatched with no purpose, no effect and no follow-through. Leadership begins at the top — simple as that. Schools drift in the fog as a direct result of the log-rolling incompetence of our erstwhile captains and their first mates.

He hates politicians too. And the LA Times.

Via This Week in Education.

 

D.C. spends $29,409 per pupil

In 2009-10, Washington D.C. public schools spent $29,409 per student, according to the Census Bureau, points out Andrew Coulson at Cato @ Liberty. “This spending figure is about triple what the DC voucher program spends per pupil — and the voucher students have a much higher graduation rate and perform as well or better academically,” he writes.

D.C. spends much more per student than Cleveland and Atlanta, which enroll demographically similar students and earn similar NAEP scores, notes Michael McShane of AEI. (He divides revenues by students for an average of  $27,263 per student in D.C. In a comment, Coulson says D.C. spent more than its revenues, so his figure is correct.)

Per student, DC has the most teachers, the most instructional aides, the most instructional coordinators, the second most administrators, and the second most administrative support staff.

DC also pays their teachers more, with a starting salary for a first year teacher with a bachelor’s degree set at $51,539 a year and a teacher with a Master’s degree and 21 years of experience earning $100,839 per year. In Atlanta (according to the district’s website), it’s $44,312 and $69,856; in Cleveland (according to its union contract) it’s $36,322 and $70,916. Note: all of these figures are simply salary, these do not include benefits.

. . . Atlanta gets slightly better test scores with slightly poorer students at 60% of the cost of DCPS and Cleveland does about the same with slightly less poor students at 68% of the cost.

Despite DCPS’ reputation for bureaucratic bloat, Atlanta has many more administrators. Cleveland has relatively few.

College pays — for good students

College is a good investment for good students, but not for everyone, an economist advises. About one third  of high school graduates have the academic skills, intelligence and motivation to succeed at a four-year college.  The rest are more likely to succeed in job training at a community college or  career college.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  As tuition rises, colleges and universities hire more administrators.