Teaching Profession

Poll Finds Gaps in Outlooks of Teachers, Principals

By Catherine Gewertz — April 03, 2007 2 min read

Teachers are less likely than administrators to say their students can excel academically, according to a survey released last week showing that educators have strikingly different perspectives on students and school life.

The study of 4,700 teachers and 267 principals and assistant principals in 12 school districts was conducted by the Council of Urban Boards of Education, part of the Alexandria, Va.-based National School Boards Association, in an effort to gauge school climate. It was intended to complement a survey of students last year. (“Reactions to School Climate Vary by Students’ Races,” April 5, 2006.)

Nearly all the administrators agreed that “students at this school are capable of high achievement on standardized exams,” but only three-quarters of the teachers concurred. Far more teachers than administrators said that students were not motivated to learn.

Findings Called Surprise

Eighty-five percent of administrators disagreed with the statement that most students at their schools would not be successful at community college or a university; only 58 percent of teachers disagreed.

The report, “Where We Teach,” March 2007, is available from the National School Boards Association.

Those gaps surprised Brian K. Perkins, the principal researcher on the study and the chairman of the council’s steering committee.

“This wasn’t anticipated, but it is certainly real,” he said. “Now the question is, what do teachers know to give them a perspective administrators don’t have, and how can that be shared?”

Antonia Cortese, the executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, one of several education groups that collaborated on the study, said teachers’ feedback on students was less rosy than administrators’ because of their daily classroom experience.

Views on Students

Teachers offered a markedly less optimistic view of students’ abilities than administrators did.

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SOURCE: National School Boards Association

“It’s not a question of expectations,” she said. “It’s a question of the reality of the way things are. Teachers have a realistic picture of what it would take to get [students] over the hurdles.”

Eighty-six percent of administrators said their teachers use good professional judgment; among the teacher respondents, 76 percent said administrators trust their professional judgment.

Ninety-four percent of the administrators said they actively seek out opportunities for teachers to learn new instructional methods, while 78 percent of the teachers said they had sufficient opportunities of that kind. Ninety-five percent of administrators said teachers at their schools could benefit from more professional development, but only 68 percent of the teachers thought so.

A version of this article appeared in the April 04, 2007 edition of Education Week as Poll Finds Gaps in Outlooks of Teachers, Principals

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