New Report Links Teacher Satisfaction to Supportive Work Environments

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In recent years, much attention has been paid to developing meaningful teacher evaluation systems as a strategy to improve public education, and rightly so. But while states and districts implement better ways to identify their strongest educators, too many are giving short shrift to the culture and work environments in schools, particularly in high-poverty and low-performing schools. In a new study released today by The Education Trust, authors Sarah Almy, director of teacher quality, and Melissa Tooley, a teacher quality data and policy analyst, find the conditions for teaching and learning are critical to teacher satisfaction, especially in struggling schools.

"The Education Trust’s latest report validates what every teacher knows is necessary to strengthen public schools and the teaching profession,” says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Building a culture of collaboration and shared responsibility among teachers, principals, and administrators; focusing on continuous professional development for teachers; and ensuring teachers have the time, tools, and trust they need to improve teaching and learning are essential ingredients to building strong public schools and a quality teaching force.”

In Building and Sustaining Talent: Creating Conditions in High-Poverty Schools That Support Effective Teaching and Learning, the authors report that when it comes to teacher satisfaction at high-poverty, low-performing schools, the conditions for teaching and learning supersede all other factors, including student and salary issues. The report urges school districts to pair efforts to improve outdated, inadequate teacher evaluation systems with the policy and culture changes that must accompany them. The report also highlights common-sense strategies some school districts employ to help schools most in need of talented teachers attract, nurture, and keep them once they are identified.

“Making evaluations more meaningful is a critical step toward improving our schools. But being able to determine who our strongest teachers and principals are doesn’t mean that struggling students will magically get more of them,” Almy says. “We have to be intentional about creating the kinds of supportive working environments in our high-poverty and low-performing schools that will make them more attractive to our strongest teachers.”