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Voices: Teachers, do tell!

St. Vrain teacher Steve Villarreal encourages Colorado teachers to share the good, the bad and the ugly about their jobs in the annual TELL survey.

Through March 6, educators across Colorado have the opportunity to participate in a statewide, anonymous survey to tell the decision-makers at their school, their district and even the state about the work environment for school employees and the learning conditions for students. TELL Colorado 2013 is state’s third edition of the bi-annual survey, and I’m proud to say I’ve taken all three.
TELL stands for Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning, and as Gov. Hickenlooper says in his video promoting the survey, it’s his way to find out about Colorado schools from the people who work in them every day and know them best.

As a teacher on the school leadership team at Trail Ridge Middle School in Longmont, the TELL Survey results give me an accurate picture of where we’re at right now and where we need to go. I want everyone to have a good experience at Trail Ridge – my students, my fellow teachers and my administration. TELL Colorado is a great tool to see what we’re doing well and what we need to improve upon together.

The results from the 2011 survey accentuated a lot of positive things about working and learning at Trail Ridge. We have fantastic facilities here, and that came through in the survey. The TELL data also pointed out very specific things we needed to improve upon, such as the way we communicated within the school and how we managed professional development programs. I’m the representative for the St. Vrain Valley Education Association in my school, and the feedback provided me the means to reach out to the faculty and ask, “What is it about communication, or about professional development, you’d like to see changed?” I took those discussions back to the school leadership team and we looked at ways to improve in those areas.

My school had a 95 percent turnout rate in the survey two years ago, largely because my district, my school and my colleagues see TELL Colorado as a collaborative effort that helps all of us. The survey gives teachers a voice and a chance to participate in the changes that will ultimately benefit students. Our principal takes the past TELL data into account as he makes decisions. Our district values the opportunity to look in the mirror to see how they’re doing, school-by-school, and identify the best practices.

From a state standpoint, my hope is that legislators and other policy makers in public education will look at TELL data to understand what we’re trying to do as teachers and what resources we need to help our students succeed. We’ll see some trends emerge across the state, and our leaders will have an opportunity to see where they can make a difference as the data points to pressing concerns. We need policymakers basing decisions based on the hard facts they’ve seen, and the TELL Survey is a great place for them to look and determine what needs to be done for every child to have the best possible education.

That’s why I hope we have a high TELL participation rate, not just within the St. Vrain Valley School District, but across the state. I’ve seen how the TELL Survey can be an effective tool in making schools better, and how it can give teachers more say in the kinds of improvements we want to see in student learning and the teaching profession.

I encourage every educator to articulate your aspirations for the ideal school you want to work in by taking the TELL Survey. Don’t be worried about time – it only takes 20 minutes. Don’t be worried about confidentiality – it can be filled out on your personal computer from home, or anywhere. The more participation we have, the better off we’re going to be.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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