A biennial survey of Colorado teachers finds that while more teachers are satisfied with overall working conditions at their schools than in 2013, fewer are confident in the helpfulness of state teacher evaluation systems and assessment data than in the past.
The Teaching, Empowering, Leading & Learning survey, or TELL, has been administered by the New Teacher Center every two years since 2009. It was commissioned by the state legislature as a way to evaluate the working conditions of teachers.
Overall, 84.8 percent of teachers agreed their school is a good place to work and learn, up from 82.7 percent in 2013. That’s despite a statewide budget crunch and changes to standardized assessments that have drawn complaints from teachers, administrators, and families across the state.
But in the first survey since significant changes to the state’s teacher evaluation system have gone into effect, just 51.7 percent of teachers agreed that teacher evaluations help improve instructional strategies. That’s down from 61.5 percent in 2013. Fewer agreed that teacher evaluations are fair than in the past: 73.7 percent in 2015, compared to 79.8 percent in 2013.
This is the first school year that school districts have been required to implement new evaluation systems for teachers and principals as part of Senate Bill 10-191. The law required annual evaluations for the first time. It also required districts to tie half of teachers’ evaluations to multiple measures of students’ academic growth, though districts had flexibility in how much to weight student growth this year due to changes in the state’s assessment.
The drop in teachers who agree that evaluations are improving instruction and fair doesn’t come as a surprise, said Katy Anthes, the executive director of educator effectiveness at the Colorado Department of Education.
“When you go through a major transformative change in how you do personnel evaluations, it’s not unexpected that we’d see a drop,” Anthes said. “We’re very aware that a lot of learning has to take place.”
Anthes said that data showed that teachers’ trust in their school leadership influenced their views on evaluations: Approximately 84 percent of teachers who ranked their school leader highly said evaluations were fair, more than 10 percentage points more than the state average.
Teachers who are newer also have a more favorable take on evaluations: 60 percent of novice teachers agreed that evaluations positively affect instruction, compared to 48 percent of experienced teachers.
Fewer teachers agreed that data from state assessments is available in time to affect instructional practice. Just 32.1 percent agreed, compared to 44.4 percent in 2013. Due to new standardized tests, teachers will not receive results from this year’s assessments until well into next school year.
Overall, teachers’ opinions on school and teacher leadership in their schools had slightly improved since 2013.
This year, 32,000 Colorado teachers in public and charter schools — 51 percent of all the state’s public schol teachers — completed the survey.
Some districts’ results are not publicly available because too few teachers took the survey. For instance, just 573 of Denver’s 6,729 teachers took the half-hour survey.
In districts where data is available, some interesting local changes are apparent. For instance, in Douglas County, 62.8 percent of teachers felt class sizes are reasonable, compared to 47 percent in 2013. Students in Douglas County had raised concerns about class size in 2012.