Education Chat

Chat Transcript: Improving Working Conditions for Teachers

Gov. Mike Easley and others discuss what the state learned about teaching conditions through its North Carolina Teacher Working Conditions Initiative.

Improving Working Conditions for Teachers

Our guests include:

  • Gov. Mike Easley of North Carolina, elected in 2000, has made education one of his top priorities. During his first term as governor, Easley has reduced class size in the early grades, created a statewide pre-kindergarten program for at-risk four-year-olds and sought to bring North Carolina teacher pay beyond the national average. Easley’s inauguration as governor followed nearly two decades of public service spent fighting crime, protecting children and the elderly, and standing up for working families. He was elected as North Carolina’s attorney general in 1992 and reelected to a second term in 1996. He introduced the Teacher Working Conditions Initiative in 2002.

  • Barnett Berry is the founder and President of the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality, Inc., based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The center focuses on building and spreading more effective teaching policies, conducting timely and consumer-friendly research on teacher quality matters, and elevating teacher leadership.
  • Eric Hirsch is vice president for policy and partnerships at the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality. He most recently served as the Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Teaching. Prior to directing the Alliance, Eric managed the Education Program at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
  • Melissa Bartlett, an 8th grade language arts teacher, was North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year for 2002-03, serves as an advisor to the state board of education and is a member of Governor Easley’s Teacher Advisory Committee.

  • Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):

    Welcome to this afternoon’s Education Week on the Web chat on improving working conditions for teachers. Our special focus for this discussion is the North Carolina Teacher Working Conditions Initiative. With the No Child Left Behind Act demanding that all teachers be highly qualified, in 2002, Governor Mike Easley launched this initiative aimed at improving working conditions, stopping teacher turnover, and retaining quality educators. The initiative included a first of its kind, statewide, comprehensive survey of school working conditions. With the help of the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality, the state also did follow up case studies of schools that scored well on the survey for working conditions. This chat will explore what the state learned about teaching conditions, and what lessons North Carolina, and other states, can learn from this experience.

    We are honored to have Governor Easley participating in our discussion this afternoon. We are also joined by Barnett Berry and Eric Hirsch from the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality, who conducted much of the research and data collection that has informed the policy and action steps of this initiative. Finally, we bring the teacher perspective to bear on the subject, with our guest Melissa Bartlett, a former teacher of the year and advisor to the North Carolina state board of education.

    Thanks to you all. Let’s get started with the Q&A....

    Question from Myra Shorner, teacher, Charlotte Meck:
    I often brag to my teacher friends in another state about how our Governor wants us to complete a survey to improve our working conditions in the schools. They can not believe that we have a Governor that is so in tune with teachers! How did you begin this work, and where do you see it headed over the next few years?

    Mike Easley, Governor of North Carolina:
    Teacher recruitment and retention has been one of my top priorities in providing the best education for the students in North Carolina. In each of the years I have served as Governor, I have fought hard to continue increases in teacher salaries, despite unprecedented budget shortfalls. However, we know from research that there is more to retaining teachers than salaries.

    The second most important reason cited for teachers leaving the profession is due to poor working conditions: lack of time to do their jobs well, lack of administrative support, poor-quality professional development that does not meet their individual needs, poor leadership in the school, and not feeling they are an important part of the decision-making process in their schools.

    In 2002, I sent the first statewide survey to every teacher in May 2002. More than 42,000 educators responded, providing valuable data, not only at the state, but at the school and district level as well.

    Our work continues today. My office is now engaged with various professional development programs, such as the Principals’ Executive Program (PEP) and the N.C. Teacher Academy, to provide custom-designed, ongoing professional development to principals and school communities to be based upon the results of the 2004 Teacher Working Conditions Survey.

    I plan to award schools that are “Great Places to Learn and Teach” in the fall of this year, and share best practice models across the state. Additionally, research and analysis will be completed by December 2004, providing my office with policy implications that I hope to use to further improve our schools as we head in to the legislative session of 2005.

    Question from Kathryn Doherty, Education Week:
    Can you give us a little bit of background on the survey the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality undertook on behalf of North Carolina? What are the key findings?

    Eric Hirsch:
    Actually, at the Southeast Center we have been thrilled to assist in the design of the survey (originally created by the Governor and the North Carolina Professional Teaching Standards Commission). The Center is helping in three ways: 1. Spreading the initiative to other states (South Carolina’s statewide survey goes live tomorrow); 2. Revising the survey and analyzing the results for the state, and 3. Developing school, district and state policy reform “tools” that are driven by the survey data.

    In terms of why the survey - given that research shows that teacher turnover - which so pervasive in some schools and so important in delivering a quality education to all children - is due in large part to the conditions of work teachers experience. While salary and comprensation are important, they are not the answer in and of themsevles. The working conditions survey gives shool by school data so that policy solutions to address this important issue can be targeted most closely to teachers actual concerns.

    The top three findings in my mind from the 2002 survey, and we look forward to having substantially more information for this year’s survey were:

    1. Time is the number one barrier identified by teachers as a working conditions concern - there just isn’t the time integrated into a teachers work day to discuss student work with colleagues, participate in professional learning opportunities and provide the type of quality instruction teachers want to deliver.

    2. School leadership is essential. In our case studies of schools that received high working conditions marks and had low turnover, the constant was a quality principal focused on instruction.

    3. Some of the factors we thought would most influence working conditions - poverty, etc. - were not as significant in teacher perceptions as we thought they might good working conditions are achievable anywhere.

    Question from Lois Finney, teacher, Shafer Middle School:
    Our district has just taken a backward step after a 3 year negotiation for the teacher contract. Our board’s definition of working conditions is “heating and lighting.” Membership in our professional organization has dropped, which led to this settlement. Where do you recommend we as educators go from here? We feel as if we have stepped back 20 years.

    Barnett Berry:
    Thanks Lois. Good question. I would find ways for teachers in your district to articulate your vision of the future of the teaching profession by drawing on the hard facts from research that show that (1) teachers make the most important difference to student achievement, and (2) what pushes teachers out of the profession (lack of faculty influence, large student load. etc) -- but you need to push out the facts in light of your own experiences as teacher leaders whose mission is serve children, but you can only do so with right resources and support. Organize for creating a new profession!

    Question from Pam Herrup, Project Manager, Massachusetts Coalition for Teacher Quality and Student Achievement:
    What were the top 3 things teachers and administrators identified for improvement in the 2002 survey?

    Eric Hirsch:
    The top three things identified for improvement in the working conditions survey were:

    1. Time, first and foremost 2. School size was a factor in the responses - smaller schools appeared to have better working conditions according to the teachers in them 3. School leadership - I include it even thought it was identified as a high satisfaction area, but it appeared to be the one that may be the driver for many of the other concerns that got mixed results (professional development, facilities, empowerment).

    That said, there are two things to consider in looking at these:

    1. Overall findings are nice, but the unique thing about the working conditions initiative is that it surveys all teachers and produces school reports - we don’t have to have broad summaries of the data, we can start to say school by school where they should start to address the most pressing working conditions arena.

    2. Administrators and teachers saw the world polar opposite ways in fact. There was significant difference on the perception of working condions between teachers and administrators on EVERY question. Principals thought working conditions were far superior than teachers themselves. This may be one of the more important findings as principals will not be able to fix things they don’t perceive as problems...even thought they are essential to their staff.

    Comment from Mike Densburger, lead teacher, NC:
    Thank you Governor for providing the opportunity for teachers in NC to voice their opinions about ways to improve our schools! All too often those in positions “outside of the classroom” are the ones making the decisions about what we “in the classroom” should do. You have given us hope that we can impact what happens in our schools.

    Question from Annice Brave, English department chair, Alton High School:
    First of all, thank you for caring about teacher time. I understand the need for professional development, but it is taking a terrible toll on lesson plan preparation and getting student work evaluated. How do you propose to balance professional development with the daily demands of managing a quality classroom?

    Melissa Bartlett:
    Thanks for this question, Annice Brave. I know that time is ALWAYS an issue for us teachers, regardless of how we’re spending it serving our students - whether it’s grading papers, meeting parents, or attending professional development workshops. On top of the on-going time constraints, it’s even WORSE if the professional development is something I feel and KNOW that I do not need!!!! (All you teachers know what I’m talking about here!:-) This is where the Working Conditions Survey results concerning professional development can be used to help define exactly WHAT is really needed by any particular staff at the individual school and if time is being wasted on unnecessary PD. Different schools have different professional development needs, so professional development plans should be individualized at that level. In addition to using the data from the Teacher Working Conditions survey results to help mold a school’s PD plan, the disaggregated student scores on standardized tests can help a school further determine what PD is REALLY needed. I think that if I could wipe out all of the inappropriate PD I’ve sat through and only attend that which I and my school really need, I wouldn’t be so concerned about the use of time for it. Outcomes-based data-driven professional development would create the balance we need.

    Question from Lisa Edwards, science teacher, Hickory High School:
    Thank you for doing the survey on working conditions. Being anonymous, you will get “real” feedback from teachers across the state about what they face on a daily basis. I know that NC has been a forerunner in accountability for teachers and students, but were alternate assessments considered, to show growth in students’ understanding of the content? Is there anything being done about the plethora of tests being given to students? The tests seem to be shifting the students’ motivation from intrinsic desire to learn to the extrinsic reward for the “score” on a test. I would like to see assessments, such as portfolios, be made available to show student growth and made available to ALL students. It would be more indicative of their performance throughout the year and help place the focus back on the curricula. What are your thoughts? Thank you, Lisa Edwards, NBCT

    Eric Hirsch:

    You raise some really important points. Teacher working conditions and other policies can only do so much to provide the support, infrastructure, etc. In the end, success ultimately comes down to that dynamic between a teacher and student - I view your question as fundamentally about what sort of tools for analysis could North Carolina, or any other state, provide to teachers to help them best serve all children.

    To put it back in working conditions terms given our chat today, your question is ultimately one about the “empowerment” domain. My question back is, are you as a teacher encouraged to experiment, to develop portfolios and alternative assessments, etc. so that you can focus on curricula and do what you need to do. Many of the working conditions survey questions deal with these types of issues. Knowing if teachers feel that they drive instruction or if it is driven from elsewhere, on a school by school basis, gives NC the potential to assess not only their teaching quality but other education policies as well.

    Eric Hirsch:
    There appear to be many questions about how the data will be used, when it will be acted upon, etc. A few thoughts

    To act upon these issues of working conditions takes a comprehensive strategy that includes the school, district and state having policies that work in conjunction to stem attrition by creating the types of policies that will recruit and retain teachers. Schools will need to be redesigned to provide more adequate time for teachers to collaborate and principals to serve as instructional leaders; Districts will need to assess policies that have allowed an inequitable distribution of qualified teachers to result and cause significant gaps across schools (transfer policy, hiring policies and budget cycles, etc.); and the state will need to provide the resources, guidance and support to help, particularly struggling urban and rural systems through induction policies, recruitment incentives, etc. One of the best things about working conditions is it allows schools and districts to “act” in data driven ways to address the conditions of work identified as problematic by the teachers in those schools as opposed to taking a one sized fits all approach.

    At the Southeast Center, we believe that the broader community plays a substantial role in acting on these issues and therefore designing tools and, with the help of many partners, providing assistance to communities to come consensus on what their unique data says and come up with research based solutions that will address those problems

    Question from Jim Brooks, teacher, West Wilkes High School:
    I would first like to express my thanks to Governor Easley for focusing attention on the issue of working conditions. Teacher working conditions ultimately impact student learning. My question is, “What are the main lessons that are being gleaned from survey responses and how do you anticipate policy being affected by this data?”

    Mike Easley, Governor of North Carolina:
    The main lessons learned from the 2002 Teacher Working Conditions Survey were nothing new to those who are in our classrooms everyday. But, this is the first time we have hard data with which to go into schools and offer specific recommendations in making appropriate policy changes.

    The main findings from 2002 showed: 1)Educators were most positive about administrators that provide strong leadership and hold teachers to high standards. They were least positive about time, being particularly critical of the time they have to do their jobs well.

    2)Teachers and principals have strikingly different views of teacher working conditions.

    3)Elementary school staff are more satisfied with their working conditions except on the issue of time.

    4)Educators in smaller schools are more satisfied than their peers in larger schools.

    5)Preliminary analysis appears to show that factors such as the ABC status of schools and the percent performing at grade level have a significant relationship to working conditions satisfaction.

    In response to the 2002 survey my office has worked with education stakeholders across the state and nation to develop high quality, custom designed professional development programs to help school leaders create positive working conditions.

    I anticipate further policy actions once the 2004 surveys are completed and analyzed. That analysis will be available in the fall, and will enable us to compare results with those from the original survey in 2002. I am confident that there will be many possible policy implications for the state and I plan to bring the highest priority of those to the legislature in 2005.

    Eric Hirsch:
    There appear to be many questions about how the data will be used, when it will be acted upon, etc. A few thoughts

    To act upon these issues of working conditions takes a comprehensive strategy that includes the school, district and state having policies that work in conjunction to stem attrition by creating the types of policies that will recruit and retain teachers. Schools will need to be redesigned to provide more adequate time for teachers to collaborate and principals to serve as instructional leaders; Districts will need to assess policies that have allowed an inequitable distribution of qualified teachers to result and cause significant gaps across schools (transfer policy, hiring policies and budget cycles, etc.); and the state will need to provide the resources, guidance and support to help, particularly struggling urban and rural systems through induction policies, recruitment incentives, etc. One of the best things about working conditions is it allows schools and districts to “act” in data driven ways to address the conditions of work identified as problematic by the teachers in those schools as opposed to taking a one sized fits all approach.

    At the Southeast Center, we believe that the broader community plays a substantial role in acting on these issues and therefore designing tools and, with the help of many partners, providing assistance to communities to come consensus on what their unique data says and come up with research based solutions that will address those problems

    Question from Carolyn Moser, seventh grade science, Leesville Road Middle School, Raleigh, N.C.:
    What will be done with the results from the N.C. teacher survey that was conducted? Many times teachers feel that they are saying what they think and know, but nothing is done with the information. Will there be some feedback from the survey results? When and in what format?

    Barnett Berry:
    Carolyn. Eric Hirsch, my colleague at the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality, is heading up an effort to create a “toolkit” for educators and community leaders to unpack local data, compare to other data from around the state, and then provide strategies for improving working conditions, teacher retention, and student learning. The BellSouth Foundation, an important partner with us, is supporting this part of the initiative.

    Question from :
    How can you expect the best canditates to become teachers if the pay is so small to start ( $25,250.00) and has so little growth (35 years of experience pays $47,000.) Low pay is what causes good people to leave the profession and good people not to enter the profession. When it has been calculated to cost $13,000 to replace an exiting teacher, shouldn’t we just pay teachers more?

    Eric Hirsch:
    Good question for sure. I would answer this in a couple of ways and echo your sentiments. Accounting for inflation, real growth in teacher salaries over the past twenty years has only gone up 6% and starting salaries lag behind comparable professions.

    Research shows, however, that while salary is a necessary part of the conversation in terms of recruiting and retaining, it is not sufficient in addressing the problem completely. Teachers leave not only due to poor salary, but almost as importantly, poor administrative support. Other factors such as student discipline, lack of faculty influence, etc. are also important. I think salaries overall will have to go up to attract and keep the high quality teaching corps we will need, but we need to do a few other things too.

    1. Look at salary more creatively - consider groundbreakin notions such as the Denver ProComp program that was discussed last chat and better think about the connections between compensation, teacher, school and district goals.

    2. Provide much more support in terms of mentoring and induction to new teachers who are the most likely to leave. Give them time, ensure mentors are well trained and compensated, etc.

    3. Provide ongoing support so that teachers will be successful.

    In the end, salaries will need to be looked at, but if we “just” pay teachers more, we will still have some of the same problems around teacher preparation, working conditions and support that will continue to drive new and veteran teachers out of the profession.

    Question from Leslie James, Title II-A Consultant, NV State Dept. of Education:
    I have heard you are/or have tweaked your working conditions survey questions based on your findings. If so, is that revision available? Did you have teachers and principals help write the questions for the survey? Were any standards used to help generate questions to get at needs such as ISLLC standards or National Staff Development Standards?

    Barnett Berry:
    Thanks Leslie. YES to all of your questions. (1) send us an email and we will send the new instrument, (2) Definitely yes...we worked closely with NC’s professional standards board and Ann MacArthur, Governor Easley’s top-notch teacher advisor (do you know how many governors have a teacher advisor?), and (3) we used many items from the national School and Staffing Survey (SASS) as well as much attention to NSDC and ISLLC standards. Barnett (

    Question from Carolyn Moser, seventh grade science, Leesville Road Middle School:
    Do you believe that NCLB will improve the overall atmosphere and performance of public schools or cause more teachers to leave the profession in frustration?

    Eric Hirsch:
    My perception is less important, obviously than those in the field...but the Southeast Center has recently completed field work in 4 states, 12 districts and 24 schools conducting focus groups, surveys, etc. with teachers and districts about the “highly qualified” teacher mandates.

    What we heard from teachers was:

    1. The definition of highly qualified need to include content, but so much more around performance and the affective areas of teaching (caring) as well as pedagogy, etc. 2. Implementation was scattered, and teachers often didn’t have enough, timely and proper information which was causing a great deal of frustration and resentment. 3. The didn’t think there was enough funds to create the types of incentives and working conditions necessary to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers for every classroom; and

    Many teachers told us they expected greater retirements and many human resources directors expressed frustration at the lack of guidance and additional support to meet those requirements.

    Question from Brian Tawes GCPSS, NC:
    In my school we used the results from the 2002 Survey as the basis for school improvement over the past 2 years. But, I have friends in another school in this county and their principal has never shared their school results with the staff, much less use it as a tool for improvement. What are you doing to improve the understanding among school principals that this can be one of the most powerful ways to create great learning environments for our kids?

    Melissa Bartlett:
    Thanks for this question, Brian. I suppose the short answer is that whenever I have the opporunity, I share the Working Conditions Survey information with anyone I meet who is involved in education and I would encourage you to continue to do so too.

    For example, during the year sabbatical I had as NCTOY, I traveled around the state speaking to various teacher and administrator groups, and I consistently shared the importance of the survey results, pointing out how useful this information could be to school improvement teams (SIT)to help formulate their improvement plans. Now that I am back in the classroom, I have held various meetings with the local NCAE affiliate in my district regarding the legislation concerning SIT teams, which is now covered in questions under the ‘leadership’ section of the Working Conditions Survey, and how the survey results can help direct a school’s improvement.

    On the state level a school tool kit is being created with a BellSouth Corp. grant that schools can use to target problem areas in their working conditions. The Governor and the State Board of Education have further emphasized the importance of the results by including them on each school’s report card - so the Working Conditions Survey results are part of the “public domain.” I must stress that spreading the information is the best way to improve understanding of how the results can be used. On the individual level, teachers need to know that they can get the survey results on their own. Every NCAE association representive in each school should have received a copy of the results independently that they could share with their colleagues. Also, any teacher who wanted his own set of data for his school could receive it upon request. I think once teachers realize this, they can “get in the driver’s seat” to help deliver reform to their school’s working conditions without having to reveal themselves individually, but instead by sharing the collective truth of a school staff as uncovered by the Teacher Working Conditions survey.

    Question from Linda Austin, teacher, Dare County:
    I noticed that in 2002, the survey was shorter (only 39 questions) and the 2004 survey is longer, with a lot more questions about professional development. What do you plan to do with the answers to the newest questions of the survey?

    Barnett Berry:
    Linda. We added questions that would allow us to compare teacher working conditions in NC to those of their colleagues from around the nation. This will give educators as well as Governor Easley an even more powerful tool to make the necessary changes, and promote a true profession of teaching. Barnett

    Question from Richard O’Brien, Teacher, Elk Grove High School and Vice President of High School District 214 Teachers Association, Illinois:
    I teach in and represent a district (214) that provides 900 teachers for our 12,000 students of which about 1/3 of our teaching staff is non-tenured (under 4 years) and while we have a truly magnificent Staff Development program within our district I am curious as to data that your recent survey may have compiled about the process of recertification of teachers within your state. I am relating this to the topic of improving teacher working conditions specifically focusing on beginning (1st-4th year) teachers who are typically overloaded with additional responsibilities dictated by State of local evaluative accountability processes and the conditional requirement of employment that an expectation of multiple commitment to co-curricular activities.

    Barnett Berry:
    Richard. Important question. The current working conditions survey does not address recertification directlym, but asks teachers a lot of quesions about their access to high quality professional development. we will “break out” findings for new and experienced teachers alike. In SC, we are asking a lot of questions about new teacher induction. Data from the survey can be used to help develop more appropriate recertification policies at the state and local levels that are linked to kind of PD that teachers need and deserve. Give us a call. Barnett

    Question from Debra Horsley, PD Coordinator, GCPSS:

    A few weeks ago I attended a presentation where your teacher advisor explained your work on the teacher working conditions. I am so impressed that you have a teacher advisor! Isn’t it unusual for a governor to have an advisor of this type? And, how has your teacher advisor been influential in your work on teacher working conditions?

    Mike Easley, Governor of North Carolina:
    Yes, it is unusual and no other state has a teacher advisor. However, we set a lot of policy in this office and it is important to know how it affects the teachers in the classroom. Ann is my direct contact to you. She is a 25 year veteran teacher and brings a unique view of education as it relates to the classroom. You would be amazed at the number of ideas we get that sound good that she rejects because it won’t work in the real world. She can also improve upon those ideas that do work. Please stay in touch with her.

    Question from Kathryn Doherty, Education Week:
    Can you tell our audience a bit about the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality and your work?

    Barnett Berry:
    We are a far-reaching non-profit that shapes policy, supports teacher leadership, and conducts consumer-friendly research -- all in the name of building a true teaching profession and improving student learning. We focus both on the Southeast where are attempting to shape more coherent policies across the region as well as across the nation. Go to

    to learn more about our current initiatives.... of which we are most proud is our Teacher Leaders Network, where we are working hard to elevate the voices of our most accomplished teachers in on-going debates about improving the profession and enhancing academic achievement for all students...and we mean all!

    Eric Hirsch:
    The Southeast Center for Teaching Quality is a non-profit based in Chapel Hill NC focused on increasing student achievement by shaping teaching quality policy through teacher leadership, building coalitions and conducting research. I encourage you to go to our website at to learn about our work, not only on teaching working conditions, but many other issues crucial to building a true teaching profession.

    On the working conditions front, the Southeast Center is engaged in several activities as we feel it is an essential, yet often overlooked, component of teacher satisfaction, retention and ultimately performance.

    1. We are Governor Easley’s official “liaison” to other states interested in replicating the working conditions initiative. The Center is working with the SC Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement and the state’s Division of Teaching Quality in South Carolina to conduct a similar initiative.

    2. We are assisting North Carolina on the design and analysis of their data. In 2003, we conducted case studies in schools with high working conditions survey results and low turnover to learn more about them.

    3. With support from BellSouth North Carolina and the BellSouth Foundation, we are developing a teacher working conditions tool kit that communities will be able to use to help better understand their survey results and consider school level reforms that address teacher concerns. We will work in a small number of communities with the tool kit and serve more throughout the state over the course of the five year initiative.

    We are doing a ton more around No Child Left Behind, National Board Certified Teachers, Teacher Preparation, Building Teaching Quality Information Systems, etc. Again, please check out the resources on our web page.

    Question from Kate Glackin:
    How willing were teachers to participate in the survey? Did you have to do anything to get “buy in”?

    Barnett Berry:
    When the survey was first administered in 2001 we had a 42% response rate from a population survey (115 out of 117 districts responded)...this was a paper and pencil survey. The current survey is a web-based version, and we still have teachers completing it.

    One impedient is ensuring teachers that the responses will remain confidential. Teachers want to be heard in a systematic fashion - and we believe that to improve teaching we must listen and learn from all of our teachers.

    Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
    I asked each of our guests to offer their advice for other states. Here’s what two of them had to say....

    Question from Kathryn Doherty, Education Week:
    What practical advice do each of you have for other states that may want to take on a comprehensive look at the issues facing teachers and take responsive action?

    Eric Hirsch:
    I think it is essential that other states take the kind of comprehensive look that North Carolina has at an issue so critical to the success not only of our state’s teachers, but of our students. Leaving No Child Behind and ensuring “highly qualified” teachers will take an enormous systematic effort, necessitating a new type of dialogue about how we staff all schools and all classrooms. First off, I would encourage teachers and others on the chat to examine the survey instrument and share it with those in your state who can make it happen. South Carolina has taken the NC survey, tweaked it a bit, and will now be able to have the same sort of data driven conversation. Also, we at the Center will be able to then look at the data across states and begin to better understand some of the policies, programs and intervening factors that are so important.

    So, first do the long, frustrating work of collecting information. Taking responsive action is the hard part. Getting this information in the hands of those who need it--policymakers, practitioners, and stakeholders--forging agreement on the problem and coming to consensus on solutions will take time. I could list many, many policies that could/should be enacted in each domain (and encourage you to check out our work on where many of these things are)...important thing is that it is based on teacher’s reality in the classroom and it is based on data, research and best practice.

    Question from Kathryn Doherty, Education Week:
    What practical advice do each of you have for other states that may want to take on a comprehensive look at the issues facing teachers and take responsive action?

    Melissa Bartlett:
    I would recommend they get a copy of the Governor’s Teaching Working Conditions survey, administer it, analyze the data, and use it for positive change at the school level. Using this tool as a starting point for dialogue at faculty meetings would be refreshing, revolutionary, empowering!

    Question from William Ferriter, Washington Mutual Fellow, Teacher Leaders Network:
    To Governor Easley:

    Governor, much study has been done recently on the difficulty that many rural and urban schools face in providing “highly accomplished” teachers for every child. Often, school that serve the neediest populations are also the hardest to staff.

    How does your office plan to use the results of this working conditions project to address this apparent disparity?

    Mike Easley, Governor of North Carolina:
    The Teacher Working Conditions Initiative is critical to ensuring there are highly qualified teachers in every classroom. We have to focus on retaining good teachers in all schools, especially those that serve the neediest populations. That is why the specific data from our working conditions survey is so important. It is my goal to provide administrators with this kind of information to help them make needed changes to support, develop and retain quality teachers.

    My office has been working with the Principals’ Executive Program (PEP) and the N.C. Teacher Academy to design professional development programs centered on assisting individual school principals and leadership teams. This training will be tailored to the school, based on the results of the survey, and will be ongoing professional development throughout the school year.

    But make no mistake, it will take more funding. That is why I have proposed a portion of lottery proceeds target our neediest schools - that is if the legislature will ever allow the lottery referendum to go to the public.

    Question from Sarah Kuszaj, science teacher, Southeast Raleigh High:
    It’s been mentioned that teachers in smaller schools were more statisfied with their working conditions than those in larger schools. As a teacher in a larger school I was wondering if there were specific areas where those teachers were more satisfied, and if so what were they?

    Barnett Berry:
    This is a GREAT question, Sarah. While our case studies of schools where teacher working conditions were quite positive should only be viewed as a “snapshot,” we did learn a good deal about the issue you raised. In small schools teachers were more likely to have the time to know students and better, and because of collaborative planning time, they were more likely to work more productive with their colleagues in solving vexing problems. The Public School Forum of North Carolina is now leading a Gates Foundation funded effort to create small high schools in the state. BB

    Question from Marlene D. Mentor Teacher, BCPSS in North Carolina:
    Governor Easley, thank you for helping my colleagues and me across NC. No one ever seems to want to listen to what we have to say, but you understand the need to hear directly from us, and we appreciate your help. How can teachers help in this work?

    Mike Easley, Governor of North Carolina:
    The role of teachers in this initiative is very important. Please encourage your colleagues to complete this year’s survey by April 28th. It is absolutely critical that teachers provide this data in order to help the decision-makers at each school make the appropriate changes. One of the most unique features of this project is that each school is provided with data from the very people who are most affected by their policy decisions – their own teachers.

    Question from Kathy Keane, concerned parent:
    Did teachers have much to say about issues related to their actual physical working space, school buildings, etc.? I think there are some dismal schools that make the climate for learning dismal. Any work being done to address that in NC?

    Barnett Berry:
    Kathy. We have a number of questions where we ask teachers to rate how strongly they agree with statements about their school facilities and resources — including adequate professional space to work productively, sufficient access to office equipment such as copy machines, convenient access to reliable communication technology, sufficient access to instructional supplies, etc. We need to be more clear about which schools provide teachers with basic tools of the trade that have taken for granted status in the private sector. We keep hearing policy makers say that schools ought to run like businesses, but we do give teachers and administrators the basic tools. Let’s get the facts on the table. Thank you as a parent for asking and caring! We need more of your voice to improve teaching and learning. Barnett

    Question from Maggie Handest, science teacher, Southeast High School:
    How much focus in North Carolina is being placed on teacher retention? How are resources being divided between hiring new qualified teacher vs. keeping experienced teachers?

    Eric Hirsch:
    Maggie - what a great question. What is most frustrating, is that very few schools or districts let alone states can answer it given what we know, track, etc. systematically about spending. What is being spent on professional development? Do you count steps on the salary schedule as the result of getting PD? How do you calculate the costs of job embedded conversations about how students are doing and how to best teach them (the best kind of PD)? Do salary increases for veterans count as a retention strategy?

    That said. North Carolina’s retention rate is 12.44%, but it varies with one of our poorer, rural districts having a turnover of 27% and some at 3 or 4%. This turnover gap - which is equally pervasive between schools that serve poor and afluent children in the same district - is a huge issue that has been largely ignored by schools, districts and states. I would argue not enough focus is being placed on retention in North Carolina or anywhere else, but that there are so many things that need to be done on the local front as well. While we are proud that North Carolina is one of 15 states that fund and require mentoring for new teachers (Quality Counts data), there is much more that we could do around induction to keep our new teachers. We also need to prepare more of them as North Carolina now relies as heavily on alternative route teachers as traditionally prepared. While it may be expensive up front to provide the types of supports and working conditions that will keep teachers in the classroom, it pales in comparison to what it costs in terms of time and money to have a constant churn of faculty every years.

    Question from William Ferriter, Washington Mutual Fellow, Teacher Leaders Network:
    As a classroom teacher in North Carolina, I have spoken to many colleagues about the North Carolina Working Conditions Project and the importance of this effort to our profession. Unfortunately, many teachers do not believe that this project will lead to any real change in working conditions at the school level.

    Can you discuss the plans that North Carolina has for following through on the data collected by the Working Conditions Project? What type of real change should classroom teachers expect to see at the school level?

    Melissa Bartlett:
    There is a list of responses to the previous survey which have already been completed. The preliminary report of results was released last year and became part of each school and district’s ‘report card’ - easily accesible to parents and teachers alike. In addition, cases studies were completed at three exemplary schools to find best practices that could be used as models in schools where working conditions need improvement as indicated by the survey results. Now we have a revised version of the survey on-line, the results of which will be used to create a tool-kit that schools can use across the state to help guide their school improvement of working conditions....BUT, all of these great initiatives really do not answer your bottom-line question -what type of real change can teachers expect at the school level as a result of the TWC survey. . . .

    Governance of our public schools in North Carolina is defined by legislation - for teachers to believe change is possible, they need to know this fact. SIT team members are supposed to be elected, that’s the law AND it’s covered in questions the working conditions survey. Teachers are supposed to have a say in what goes on in their schools...they ARE the front line experts. I know that historically, 99% of all the decisions made that govern our daily school life have been made by folks furthest removed from the classroom...the decisions came down on our heads...and not as ‘manna from heaven’ either. NOW we have a chance for real input via the Governor’s teacher working conditions survey. If every single teacher in a school answers the survey and it’s part of the public record for that school, that’s a BIG voice that can be used as an impetus for change AND in safety from any possible aministrative backlash...the survey answers are GUARANTEED ANONYMOUS and COLLECTIVE. Every school’s SIT team should devour the survey results and use them to plan accordingly. In our data-driven standards-based world, I see this survey as our key to self-determination via the SIT team structure of school governance.

    If only ALL teachers will get online TODAY and answer the survey!!!! :-) I suppose that’s the true short answer to your question...with such a powerful set of data as the Teacher Working Conditions Survey puts in teacher’s hands, how much real change they see their school is up to them...

    Question from Brian Duffy, teacher, Long Island, NY:
    What did you learn from this survey about leadership? Are there any resulting policies directed at getting better school leaders? And, if leaders participated in the survey, what did they say about their working conditions?

    Eric Hirsch:

    We learned that teachers were most satisfied with leadership (compared to the other four domains of empowerment, time, professional development and facilities/resources). In our case studies of successful schools, we saw first hand how important a quality leader that values teachers and places instruction at the center of school work can be. While almost 1,300 principals answered the survey (59% response rate) they were asked to rate the working conditions of their staff, not their questions about professional development were about what teachers received, not what principals received.

    I think you’ve hit on a huge issue - who would want to be a principal these days? It is an amazingly hard and complex job and expectations are great now than ever. We really need to systematically examine the principal preparation, recruitment and support systems within our states. With the help of the Wallace Fund, several states and districts have done so. A few thoughts based on a study of principal policies and programs I helped conduct in Colorado when I was with the National Conference of State Legislatures a few years ago.

    1. We need to really think about recruitment. While there are a ton with principal credentials, who would, could and should step into these positions is really important.

    2. What type of training to do principals need to have, particularly around instructional leadership and teacher evaluation.

    3. What type of mentoring and support do they get. In Colorado, we found more than half of districts spent $3,000 or less on principal professional development and one district with more than 100 principals spent $0.

    North Carolina is fortunate to have the Principal Executives Program that can help support principals and provide them the support necessary to address their own, and teacher working conditions

    Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
    The governor also weighed in with his advice to other states...

    Question from Kathryn Doherty, Education Week:
    What practical advice do each of you have for other states that may want to take on a comprehensive look at the issues facing teachers and take responsive action?

    Mike Easley, Governor of North Carolina:
    First, I would recommend that every governor have a teacher advisor in his or her policy office. This is critically important to keeping a finger on the pulse of the classroom. Secondly, it is important that the governor take a proactive approach in working with all of the education stakeholders in each state: teachers, administrators, education department leaders, higher education leaders, other elected officials as well as community and business leaders. Lastly, give teachers the opportunity to confidentially provide their opinions without repercussions at the school level. They are the experts in the classroom and need to be part of the policy decisions that affect them and their students.

    Question from Kathryn Doherty, Education Week:
    What practical advice do each of you have for other states that may want to take on a comprehensive look at the issues facing teachers and take responsive action?

    Barnett Berry:
    I am not going to say it is easy to launch a comprehensive, web-based survey of 80,000 teachers - most of whom are very busy serving children they are hard pressed to find time to complete survey that helps us understand what they are facing as educators.

    So first, make this issue of asking teachers what they know and think about their working conditions a priority. Not only do we need magnanimous support from top leadership like we have from Governor Easley, but also from superintendents and principals. with this in mind....

    Setaside time for teachers to complete the survey.

    Institutionalize the data gathering - and work through organizations that teachers trust and believe that their responses will be confidential.

    make a commitment to conduct follow-ups that can allow for comparisons from one point in time to another - and compare responses to other states and locales (this will give the data “more legs”)

    Develop a toolkit for educators and policy makers to interpret the data (we are doing this for NC)

    post the information on the web and make it a part of teh school report card (like what Governor Easley is doing in NC)

    Question from Beverly Vance, teacher, Southeast Raleigh High School:
    Teachers in North Carolina are not working under Union Organized contracts; however, what is the likely hood that there will be contracts with definite start times and ending times for teachers?

    Melissa Bartlett:
    This is a great question, particularly in a non-union state. I know I’ve been mentioning the use of the School Improvement Team (SIT) as a decision-making model for all schools in NC. The start and finish times for schools should be a local decision involving all of the stakeholders - parents, teachers, administrators, as well as students...and that IS what the SIT structure is supposed to be.

    Question from Sam Wheeler, Physics Teacher & Kenan Fellow, Southeast Raleigh High School:
    First, let me thank the Governor and the panel for taking the time to hold this chat. I for one greatly appreciate the leadership demonstrated. One comment that I would like to tag along on is the “perception gap” teachers and administrators were shown to have in the recent survey. I was wondering if there are any plans in development to have teachers and administrators learn how to more effectively communicate and work together? I have found that the better schools tend to have a more team spirit among the faculty while other schools tend to have an “us vs.them attitude”.

    Mike Easley, Governor of North Carolina:
    North Carolina is fortunate to have the nationally recognized center for professional development, the Principals’ Executive Program (PEP), right in our own backyard. We are glad to partner with PEP to build modules into their existing programs that will assist school leaders in addressing ways to improve working conditions in their schools.

    We know from the 2002 Teacher Working Conditions Survey that teachers were most positive about their school leaders in the areas of providing strong leadership, holding teachers to high standards, and providing a strong shared vision for their schools. At the same time, respondents were less positive about principals’ efforts to shield them from disruptions, address concerns about leadership, and give priority to supporting teachers. It was apparent that principals need more tools to assist them in providing positive working conditions, and that is why our efforts are now focused on providing this type of assistance to the schools.

    Question from Leslie James, Title IIA Consultant, NV Dept. of Ed:
    Believing principal leadership may be the key to increasing teacher retention, Charlotte Advocates for Education (CAE), a local independent non-profit organization, has just released findings from its study, *Role of Principal Leadership in Increasing Teacher Retention: Creating a Supportive Environment.

    How have you used this information across the state regarding the connection of principals and culture to teacher retention?

    Barnett Berry:
    We are in serious conversations with Margaret Carnes, who leads CAE, to do just what you are suggesting!

    Question from Ann Byrd, Director of CERRA - South Carolina:
    As Director of the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement in South Carolina, our agency has the privilege of working with the Southeast Center and with the Division of Teacher Quality at the SC State Dept of Education to launch the SC Working Conditions Survey (tomorrow) as Eric mentioned earlier. As we look forward to the data we will gather from this powerful instrument, how can we be planning NOW to best use the information to inform and energize classroom teachers to have a stronger voice on policy issues that dramatically impact their practice? How do we reach the untapped potential of the informed “classroom voices” of teachers in policy conversations face to face with policymakers?

    Melissa Bartlett:
    In order to reach as many teachers as possible, perhaps you could begin designing some professional development centered around the upcoming results of the working conditions survey and how teachers can best use the data to underwrite positive change in theri schools. Your state NEA affiliate could help design and deliver such professional development. If your state has a functioning School Improvement Team (SIT) structure as NC does, that could also be used as an obvious vehicle of dessemination.

    Eric Hirsch:
    The Governor has said that “teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.” It is so true, and he and the state of North Carolina should be congratulated for the foresight and courage to ask teachers what they think about something so important to the success of our students.

    Many questions have asked about policies and what will the state or the Governor do. Many of these questions have been asked by teachers. I cannot say strongly enough how important it is that you are proactive about these issues and not wait for them to be solved. I say that with a full understanding of the barriers that face our teacher leaders, the potential retribution that can occur, and the frustration that will inevitably follow. But I also say that with the fundamental belief that the solution to these problems rests largely with the profession itself and it being able to clearly articulate these issues in a percise, compelling and succinct way to local and state policymakers. North Carolina have provided teachers with a means of projecting their the teachers themselves must use this data to amplify their voice and ensure that it is not ignored.

    Question from Suzann, classroom teacher, Cumeberland County schools:
    I have read of schools where students only attend school four days a week, and teachers engage in planning, professional development, etc on Friday. Is this happening anywhere in our state?

    Barnett Berry:
    I do not know of any schools in NC where this is being done....but the education community is notoriously poor in sharing what it is learning in systematic and useful ways. But there are a number of schools that are redesigning their curriculum and school schedules in order to make mroe time for teachers to learn from each other and have smaller student loads (like looping concepts) over time....we will highlight these in our working conditions toolkit we are developing for NC (and funded by BellSouth).

    Question from Mary Pat Spon, UniServ Director, Montgomery County Education Association, Rockville, MD:
    What recommendations do you have for schools to provide more regular and frequent time for teachers to work collaboratively to assess student data and plan instruction?

    Melissa Bartlett:
    Isn’t this the 64 million dollar question?;-) ...although I don’t think it would take nearly that much money to solve this problem...we just need to start thinking about teaching as a bonified profession...

    We need to begin to think differently about our teachers’ professional day. There are many models, particularly from overseas schools, that incorporate planning and collaboration time as a typical part of the workday. Many of these models, by the way, are surpassing many of our schools in student achievement - although their teachers have less actual contact time with the students.

    I encourage teachers to become politically active and advocate for some new dialogue about the structure of our school day and of our working conditions...the first step is to fill out the Teacher Working Conditions survey!:-)

    Question from Darrel Drury, Manager, Research Department, National Education Association:
    In response to an earlier question, Eric Hirsch pointed out that poverty was “not as significant in teachers’ perceptions [of working conditions] as we thought they might be” and concluded that “good working conditions are achievable anywhere.” I wonder if this surprising finding might be due to teachers’ perceptions being conditioned by their sense of relative deprivation. In other words, isn’t it likely that teachers’ in high-poverty schools, where conditions may actually be quite poor, simply perceive them to be good because that is the only frame of reference that they know?

    Eric Hirsch:
    Darrel - that is a great hypothesis. We are thrilled that the Governor has been so willing to assess and change the working conditions survey to ensure it is addressing the needs of the state. The survey currently underway has far more questions about “what actually is” than the first which focused almost exclusively on “how do you perceive” Both are important as teacher perception largely drives their satisfaction and ultimatley their decisions to stay or leave the classroom. We can’t wait to get our hands on the new results and see how perception and reality stack up and add more to the analysis mix. We couldn’t answer your question in 2002, but I think we will be able to in 2004.

    Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
    We’ll have to wrap up this session there. I want to thank our guests, especially Governor Easley, for taking the time to discuss the important topic of teacher working conditions with the Education Week‘s audience. I think there is much that policymakers, administrators, and educators in other states can learn from North Carolina’s ongoing experience with the Teacher Working Conditions Initiative. For more information on the Teacher Working Conditions Initiative, please see the Webpage for the Office of the Governor of North Carolina. A transcript of this session will soon be available on the Education Week website. Thanks again to all for your participation!

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