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Crystal Greene, 503-947-5650

May 28, 2014

Educators Report Teaching and Learning Conditions are Good But Class-size and Time Remain Serious Issues

State education leaders reflect on results and call for continued investment in education

(Salem, Ore.) – Today Oregon Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton, Oregon Education Association President Hanna Vaandering, and Confederation of Oregon School Administrators Executive Director Craig Hawkins announced the results of the Teaching, Empowering, Leading, and Learning (TELL) Oregon Survey which was administered state-wide this spring. Over 19,300, or just under 60%, of school-based educators around the state completed the survey which covered questions related to teaching and learning conditions in their schools. Results of the survey will be used to support ongoing improvement efforts in our schools, districts, and at the state policy-making level.

“Hearing directly from our educators about the conditions in their schools is critically important if we are going to continue to make progress in improving education in our state,” said Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton. “There is much to be excited about in these results. Our educators describe school environments that are safe, where families are informed and engaged, where students are held to high standards, and where educational innovation and leadership are encouraged. However, they also highlight large class-sizes and insufficient collaboration and prep time as areas of real concern. Years of financial belt tightening have left many districts with fewer teachers, shorter school years, and larger class-sizes, all of which directly impact student learning. Clearly, we have much to be proud of in our schools, but we also have to get serious about addressing these issues if we are going to substantially impact student opportunities and outcomes.”

Educators were asked to rate a wide range of questions on a scale of strongly agree to strongly disagree. Almost 80% of these 87 survey questions received an agree/strongly agree rate of over 60%. State-wide, only 7 of the questions had agreement rates of below 50%. Questions were categorized in eight areas: Time, Facilities and Resources, Community Support and Involvement, Managing Student Conduct, Teacher Leadership, School Leadership, Professional Development, and Instructional Practices and Support.

A highlight of some of the survey results is provided below.

Report Highlights
  • Most educators believe their school is a good place to work and learn
    More than 8 of 10 respondents believed their school was a good place to work and learn.
  • Most educators have the necessary supports to manage student conduct Results suggest most educators work in safe environments and that policies and structures are in place to encourage positive student behavior.
  • Parents and the community are encouraged to participate in student learning
    Nine of 10 educators report that teachers provide parents with useful information about student learning. Over eight of 10 educators agree that schools encourage the community to participate, provide information to the community, and that the community supports the school.
  • Teachers believe they make a difference and have high expectations for students
    More than nine of 10 educators view teachers as impacting students’ lives and as having high student expectations. Close to nine of 10 educators report teachers are encouraged to try new things to improve instruction.
  • Teachers are viewed as instructional leaders
    Close to nine of 10 educators agree that teachers are encouraged to participate in school leadership roles and are effective leaders in the school. Close to eight of 10 respondents believe teachers are recognized as educational experts. However, more than four in 10 teachers believe they do not have an appropriate level of influence in decision making in their school.
  • Teachers are held to high standards
    About nine of 10 educators report that teachers are held to high professional standards for delivering instruction and the school leadership facilitates using data to improve student learning. Eight of 10 educators indicate that teacher performance is assessed objectively.
  • Educators express serious concerns over class-size
    Three out of four teachers believe their class sizes do not allow them to effectively support student learning. Of the 17 states which have conducted the TELL survey, Oregon respondents reported the most concern over class-size.
  • Teachers need more time to support students
    Only half of educators feel they have sufficient time to collaborate with their colleagues. Less than half agree they can focus on instruction with minimal interruptions or that efforts are made to minimize paperwork. Two thirds of educators feel they do not have sufficient non-instructional (prep) time.
“We are thankful that so many educators took the time to complete this very important survey. Having information directly from educators working on the front-lines with our students gives us a true understanding of the opportunities and challenges in schools across Oregon. Our next step is to use the data we have to support our students and establish clear standards to ensure that the teaching and learning conditions necessary for their success are present in every school in our state,” said Hanna Vaandering, OEA President. “The results were clear: we have to fix the class size crisis across Oregon and that will require a state-level strategy. We can and must do better in order to meet our goal of ensuring that every student receives the education they deserve.”

In addition to state-level data, survey results are available at the school and district level provided certain participation thresholds were met. In order to receive district-level data, the district must have had at least a 35% participation rate and a minimum of 20 respondents. To receive school-level results, a school had to have at least a 50% participation rate and a minimum of 5 respondents. School, district, and state-level results are available online at www.telloregon.org. In addition to the raw survey data, the New Teacher Center which administered the survey has produced several initial reports which provide additional analysis and background on the survey. These reports are also available on the TELL Oregon website.

This survey data will be used to promote discussions about funding, instruction, planning time, professional development, school improvement, and related policy issues at both the school, district, and state levels. Both schools and communities are encouraged to review the survey data and examine areas of strength and opportunities for growth in their local schools.

“For local district and school leaders, these survey results will be among the data they use in improvement planning. The same should be true at the state level, where the results make it clear that, while many important conditions for teaching and learning are in place, others are not,” said Confederation of Oregon School Administrators Executive Director Craig Hawkins. “We clearly need to address issues of time, including longer school years and more after-school and summer-school opportunities, time for educator training and collaboration, and time – through reasonable class sizes – for the individual attention and personalized instruction and meaningful adult-student connection that leads to student achievement and graduation.”

The survey also included a section on support for new educators. According to the survey results, over three-quarters of new teachers (defined as the first three years) report having regular communications with their principals. However, only six out of ten new teachers are formally assigned a mentor, and less than half of these met with their mentor once a month or more to do lesson planning, align plans with curriculum, analyze student work, review student assessments, or observe mentor practice. This indicates that there are many new educators who could benefit from a formal mentor or from additional support in their critical first few years.

In 2013, the Oregon Legislature invested $10 million to expand new teacher mentoring programs. This funding, which was part of the Strategic Initiatives, has provided mentors for first- and second-year teachers in districts across the state. Through this recent investment, 1109 new teachers and 126 new principals received a mentor last year. While we know that these programs are making a difference in better preparing and better supporting our educators, there are clearly many more new teachers who could still benefit from a further expansion of these types of proven programs.

“We know that the single-greatest in-school factor for student success is an educator. Building a strong foundation for high-quality teaching begins early and done well, impacts not only student learning, but educator retention as well,” said Chief Education Officer Nancy Golden. “Sustaining current mentoring programs and ensuring that all new educators have access to the support they need to be successful has to be one of our top priorities.”

This is the first year Oregon has administered this survey which has also been given in 16 other states. Oregon’s participation rate of just under 60% ties it for third for first time administration. The survey was open to all school-based teachers and administrators in Oregon’s 197 school districts from February 24 through April 7. TELL Oregon was conducted under the leadership of the Oregon Department of Education and supported by a coalition of education organizations including the Oregon Education Association, the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, the Oregon Education Investment Board, and the Chalkboard Project. The survey was administered by the New Teacher Center (NTC), a national organization dedicated to supporting the development of a high-quality teaching force. Oregon will continue to work with the New Teacher Center over the coming year to further review and analyze these survey results. The results will contribute to both school and district improvement efforts and will help inform state policy decisions as we work to improve teaching and learning conditions in our state.

For more information about the 2014 TELL Oregon Survey, and to access results by school and district, please visit www.telloregon.org.

Rob Saxton, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction
Crystal Greene, Communications Director, Telephone (503) 947-5650

Oregon Department of Education News Releases contain information that was originally released to the press as an official release.  Refer to each News Release for the details.

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