by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
I received a thought-provoking response to Lindsay Marchello’s Carolina Journal article on the N.C. Teacher Working Conditions Survey.
Administrators usually make a big deal over teachers completing this survey. The K[indergarten] teacher I referenced is a gifted teacher and well-respected by her staff. I often sought her advice and input with a child or parent problem. When I asked her one year why she thought so many teachers verbally expressed opinions that seemed to negate what that year’s survey said, she told me that maybe teachers did what she did….just quickly fill in the bubbles to indicate that everything’s fine. I must have looked surprised. She explained that she had noticed over the years that principals often spent time after the school’s results were released obsessing over any “negative” areas and sometimes requiring more meetings, committees, and attention to those areas. She said that, at the least, some principals would spend time berating a staff to refute any negatives. In her opinion, telling the truth just caused her more time in meetings and usually led to few changes; she saw it as a protection of her future teaching and planning time.
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, a good administrator should use survey data to improve working conditions for teachers. On the other hand, I am not surprised to hear that some administrators do a clumsy job of implementing improvements or take the results personally.