Professional Development

Parents, Teachers: Different Priorities on Teacher Effectiveness?

By Stephen Sawchuk — March 23, 2011 2 min read
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Teachers and parents hold rather different opinions about aspects of the debate over teacher quality, such as whether student growth ought to be a key part of measuring teacher effectiveness, according part two of the annual MetLIfe Survey of the American Teacher, released this morning.

In all, 92 percent of parents thought using measurements of teacher effectiveness that include student growth was a priority for improving teacher quality, but only 69 percent of teachers surveyed felt the same. The two groups also disagreed about whether this was a top priority or something that should be done only as a lower priority: 56 percent of parents said it was “one of the highest priorities,” but only 27 percent of teachers did.

The two groups also differed about whether schools should have more latitude to remove teachers who are “not serving teachers well": 39 percent of teachers said this should be a top priority, while 75 percent of parents did.

As usual, it’s hard to parse exactly what’s beneath the surface in these findings. Teachers are the target of these kinds of reforms, so perhaps this shows that they are more aware—and more cautious—than parents about the complicated nature of evaluations and incorporation of student growth. (The survey doesn’t specifically define student growth as test scores versus other measures.)

I do wonder, though, whether these findings would look different if there were something in here about professional development. After all, policy experts and practitioners alike say that the point of these evaluation systems shouldn’t be (or shouldn’t only be) about separating the “good” from the “bad"—they should also be part of a system for improving teachers’ skills. And, it’s gone largely unnoticed, but American Federation of Teachers folks almost always refer to a “teacher-development and -evaluation system,” not merely an evaluation system.

I also wonder what you’d find out if you asked teachers where they would put “more parental engagement” on their list of priorities, a question that was not on this year’s survey. As the scrutiny has increased on teachers, I’ve listened to more than one bemoan a lack of parental attention to issues like early-reading development or discipline.

The survey measured responses from 1,000 public school teachers in grades 6-12 and about 600 parents of students in those grades.

The report also has results for other topics, such as differentiation for students with different abilities and backgrounds. Anthony Rebora over at EdWeek’s Teacher magazine outlines some of them.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.