The work of Tennessee’s educators is vital. Teachers are the single most important in-school factor for raising student achievement, and school leaders are the next. For this reason, Tennessee educator voices are valuable to state-level leaders and policymakers for greater understanding of what occurs daily in diverse schools and classrooms.
For the last eight years, the Tennessee Department of Education has partnered with the Tennessee Education Research Alliance to collect and disseminate feedback from Tennessee educators in all regions of the state.
This year a record of nearly 40,000 Tennessee educators took the Tennessee Educator Survey. The increase in responders is critical because it leads to more thorough feedback for state, district, and school leaders. Especially for district and school leaders, they will only receive their data from the survey if they meet a threshold of 45 percent of responses. This year, 1,167 schools and 133 districts received their specific survey data reports. Ninety-nine more schools met the threshold this year than last year.
Based on educator answers, here are some of the survey’s top-level findings that will help Tennessee become the best state to live, work, and grow as a teacher:
• Teacher evaluation is valuable, but the process is burdensome. There has been a steady increase in the percentage of teachers who believe that the evaluation process has led to improvements in their teaching and in student learning has occurred over the last five years. However, 50 percent of responders said the process was a burden due in part to time and resource constraints as well as anxiety regarding evaluation. When it comes to evaluation overall, teachers say they value observers with content expertise, desire high-quality feedback, and want fewer observation indicators.
• There is strong teacher understanding of the academic standards, but instructional materials are judged to be weaker. Over the last few years, Tennessee has undergone shifts to more rigorous standards. Eighty-eight percent of educators responded this year that they understood what the Tennessee Academic Standards expected of them as teachers. However, another urgent point showed that only 63 percent of responders felt that their instructional materials were high-quality and could be used to teach the more rigorous state standards. To help support every student to become a strong reader and writer, it is essential to improve teacher access to high-quality instructional materials.
• High school educators want to be more prepared to advise their students on paths after graduation. Fewer high school educators responded this year that they had received enough training and guidance for advising their students on postsecondary opportunities. This is a critical area to improve as Tennessee works to make high schools the on-ramp to postsecondary studies and jobs.
The educator survey allows teachers and administrators to share their insights on the progress made and areas for growth in Tennessee. Visit the department’s website to explore the data by state, district, and school levels.