Education Week - May 11, 2016 - (Page 6)

Study Says Teachers Feel Stressed, Discounted By Madeline Will Although they find parts of their jobs immensely rewarding, many teachers feel ignored in education policy discussions and are frustrated with the constantly changing demands on them, a new survey finds. "Listen to Us: Teacher Views and Voices," released last week by the nonprofit Center on Education Policy, is based on online interviews with a nationally representative sample of 3,328 public school teachers conducted late last year. The report paints a picture of a profession that has become increasingly demanding and discouraging, leaving many teachers who entered the profession for mostly altruistic reasons feeling stressed and discounted. "This is not a job where people are making huge amounts of money," Maria Ferguson, the center's executive director, said during a press call. "Sooner or later, you do have to wonder if this is a breaking point." According to the report, about half of teachers would leave the profession as soon as possible if they could get a higher-paying job, and the same percentage believe that the "stress and disappointments" involved in teaching at their school aren't worth it. Ferguson said findings like those could shed some light on the current teacher shortages in several parts of the country. Still, 64 percent of respondents said teachers at their school are satisfied with their jobs. Kate Walsh, the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, said that finding should not be overlooked. "There's a narrative that is spun everywhere that teachers feel very much put upon and unappreciated and their voices are not heard," she said, adding that while policymakers would be better off listening more to teachers, "the evidence that they're deeply unhappy with their jobs has been shown to be blown out of proportion." Lack of Voice Walsh also discounted the narrative of a major teacher shortage facing the nation. Though certain districts and subjects areas don't have enough high-quality teachers, she contended, overall the country is overproducing educators. According to the survey, one-third of teachers say constantly changing demands on them are among the most significant challenges they face as teachers. Teachers are not sure how to do a good or effective job when "the target is constantly moving," Ferguson said. Jal Mehta, an associate education professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an opinion blogger for Education Week, said he found it striking that 46 percent of teachers cited state or district policies that get in the way of teaching as among their most significant challenges. That's double the percentage of " I do think that people at state and district levels think about teachers a lot, but thinking about them and strategizing about them is not the same as listening to them and developing respect." JAL MEHTA Harvard Graduate School of Education teachers who listed classroom factors, like large class sizes or working with economically disadvantaged students, as among their main challenges. Teachers, Mehta said, are being encouraged to teach students new skills and to think more critically and deeply. Yet "teachers feel like the policies that are supposed to be helping them do these things are in fact the biggest hindrance," he said. The report finds that most teachers feel excluded from policy discussions at the district, state, and national levels. And there's evidence to suggest teachers might feel even more overlooked than they did a few years ago, when Scholastic Inc. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation published the results from a similar survey. The new study is not a direct sequel to that 2013 survey, but included some similar questions. In the 2013 survey, 69 percent of teachers said their opinions were heard in decisions at the school level, compared with 53 percent now. Similarly, 32 percent of teachers said their voices were considered at the district level, but in the CEP survey, that has dropped to 19 percent. In both surveys, 5 percent or fewer of teachers felt their opinions were heard at the state or national levels. "We have not moved the ball in a positive direction when it comes to amplifying teacher voices and letting them have a place at the table," Ferguson said. Mehta, who is researching the social and emotional aspects of policy implementation in education, said he has found a disconnect between state- and district-level officials and teachers in the classroom. "I do think that people at state and district levels think about teachers a lot, but thinking about them and strategizing about them is not the same as listening to them and developing respect," he said. The report also explores teachers' thoughts on standardized testing and curricula aligned to meet state standards. A majority of the teachers surveyed said that they spend too much time preparing students for state- and district-mandated tests and that their students spend too much time taking those tests. Curriculum Concerns More than two-thirds of both math and language arts teachers who received student data from spring 2015 testing said the results caused them to modify their teaching. But about half the teachers of those subjects indicated that they are unsure if their state will retain its current standards and assessments-and 80 percent of that group said the lack of certainty creates instructional challenges. While many teachers are given curriculum materials aligned to state standards, others say they are making independent decisions in developing or revising their own curricula. "The autonomy teachers seem to have regarding curriculum could be a double-edged sword," Ferguson said, noting that the finding raises questions about the continuity and quality of the curricula in schools. Amid Rocky Start, College-Access Coalition Hires First Director By Catherine Gewertz Seven months ago, an elite group of colleges and universities created a new application system intended to help disadvantaged students find their way to higher education. Now, the group has hired its first executive director. And she faces a pile of unanswered questions and deepening criticism about the system from the college-advising community. The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success announced April 25 that it has chosen Annie Reznik as its first executive director. She began May 1. Reznik has been on both sides of the collegeadmissions table: She's been a high school counselor, most recently at a private Quaker school in Providence, R.I., and an admissions officer at the University of Maryland. Until now, the coalition's work has been led by a governing board of representatives of its 90-plus member institutions. But college counselors have become increasingly critical of the group as they struggle to get clear information about how the system will work. Their frustration has spilled onto listservs for the profession and into conferences where they've had to move to bigger rooms to accommodate all the people who wanted to pepper coalition representatives with questions. In an interview with Education Week, Reznik said she will do everything she can to make sure the coalition helps counselors get the information they need. "I certainly feel like counselors need more information, and I'm excited to help them get it," she said. "I feel so confident that the intentions and goals of the coalition are important, and ultimately, counselors are student-centered. So I'm hopeful they'll start to feel more confident in the organization when we bridge those information gaps." Education Week tried to reach three university-based leaders of the coalition to discuss its new leadership and counselors' complaints about the group's transparency. One declined to be interviewed, and two didn't return calls. Bumps in the Road Recently, counselors learned that dozens of coalition members have decided to delay using the application system for a year. But counselors are still struggling to get a full picture of what's going on. Earlier, the coalition delayed by three months the release of a key piece of its application system. Rafael Figueroa, the dean of college guidance at Albuquerque Academy, a private school of 1,100 students, said he learned at a counselors' conference in Tucson, Ariz., recently that Colorado College had opted not to use the coalition system for a year. The coalition didn't schedule a presentation for the Tucson meeting as it had for other regional gatherings, Figueroa said. He heard the news from a Colorado College official who "took it upon himself" to discuss the issue at the conference. "I was quite stunned, honestly, because I thought, well, this is a critical piece of information," Figueroa said. "How long a list is it? 40? 50 schools? When would we in the West have heard about it?" Figueroa said he was also dismayed to learn that the coalition posted new essay prompts on its website, but sent no email notification to the counseling community. At the Tucson meeting, Figueroa said he also pressed for clarification on how much financial aid coalition schools are required to provide. 6 | EDUCATION WEEK | May 11, 2016 | That's a key idea, since the organization requires participating institutions to show that they will meet the "full demonstrated financial need" of students. Again, Figueroa was frustrated that he couldn't get a clear answer. "They are just really dropping the ball with communication time and time again," he said. "Why should we have to dig to find these things? It feels like they have a lot to hide, that they're unsure, that this whole platform is very unstable." When the coalition launched last September, it portrayed itself as a new method of connecting promising but often overlooked students with top-notch colleges. Part of its system features an online "locker" that students can use to assemble videos, essays, projects, and other work into a multifaceted portrait of themselves, starting in 9th grade. The digital-locker feature was originally to be released in January, but was moved to April. The application part of the coalition system is due out this summer. An Equity-Minded Vision From the beginning, the coalition hasn't emphasized its role as an alternative to the Common Application, even though that was part of the idea behind its launch. Instead, the coalition has emphasized its mission: to reach underserved students in new ways and help them connect with institutions that will offer them good financial-aid packages and a very good chance of graduating. (To belong to the group, colleges and universities must demonstrate those and other criteria.) But some counselors and college officials have worried that starting to build an online-application locker as early as 9th grade could make students nervous about college admissions two years earlier than the notorious junior year. Others have argued that the system could perpetuate inequity by allowing students with the resources to build fancy portfolios to outdo those with less access to expensive tools and guidance. Still others have raised questions about the privacy safeguards on those lockers, wondering who would have access to students' information. Phillip Trout, the president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, whose listserv has buzzed with debates about the coalition, said all that uncertainty and debate make it a good thing that the organization has hired a new executive director. And it's "fantastic" that Reznik is someone who has "been on both sides of the desk," he said. But "God bless her, Annie Reznik is going to be one busy woman," said Trout, a college counselor at Minnetonka High School in Minnesota. He acknowledged that some members of NACAC have been "very unforgiving" about allowing the coalition to find its way through its startup phase. But David Hawkins, NACAC's executive director for educational content and policy, said there's a reason for counselors' impatience: It's because they work with students and families for up to two years as they approach the fall application season. "Accordingly, the profession is accustomed to a significant amount of lead time when there are changes, whether large or small, to the application process," he wrote in an email. He added that getting timely information to counselors and college advisers who work with underrepresented students is particularly important.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - May 11, 2016

Education Week - May 11, 2016
Bungling Student Names: A Slight That Stings
Popularity of Ed Tech Often Not Linked to Products’ Impact
As ESSA Rolls Out, State Officials Vow To Hear Local Voices
Rich Districts Post Widest Racial Gaps
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Study Says Teachers Feel Stressed, Discounted
Amid Rocky Start, College-Access Coalition Hires First Director
Migrant Students Kept Out of Schools, AP Investigation Finds
Scores Decline for Low-Performers On 12th Grade NAEP
National Survey Shows Rise in Student Safety
Blogs of the Week
Education Funding a Key Factor In Illinois Budget Showdown
ESSA Paves Way for Deeper Access to Wealth of K-12 Data
Blogs of the Week
Relative Motion In Education
Education Policy Should Address Student Poverty
Quality Physical Education Is a Life Changer
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
‘People Support What They Create’: Stakeholder Engagement Is Key to ESSA’s Future

Education Week - May 11, 2016