Survey: Majority of Teachers Embrace Reforms

Published April 6, 2012

A new survey finds huge majorities of teachers are satisfied with their jobs and embrace limiting tenure, more rigorous evaluations that include student achievement growth as a measure, and ending last in, first out hiring and firing practices.

Primary Sources 2012: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession is the second survey of teachers’ opinions by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The 2012 report surveyed more than 10,000 pre-K-12 teachers and is considered the largest national teachers survey.

Primary Sources tells us teachers want stronger curricula that relate to the real world, and they welcome accountability that’s done thoughtfully and fairly,” said Vicki Phillips, director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “When it comes to evaluations, teachers know what’s good for students is good for them, too: multiple measures of their performance and consistent feedback to help them improve.”

The results demonstrate teachers, far from viewing education reform with suspicion, “are embracing key reforms like never before,” said Alix Schroek, communications manager for the Association of American Educators (AAE), the fastest-growing national nonunion teachers’ association.

Talent, Not Time Served
Ninety-two percent of teachers surveyed said tenure should not protect ineffective teachers, and 80 percent said tenured teachers should be regularly reevaluated. Eighty-five percent supported using student achievement growth as an evaluation measure. 

Most states award tenure after just three years. Thirty-nine percent of teachers said tenure should be granted after five to 10 years of teaching, 15 percent said it should be after 10 years, and another 7 percent said tenure decisions should not be based on teaching time at all.

“People really want to examine tenure more,” said Scholastic Vice President Francie Alexander. “Nobody wants tenure to protect teachers who aren’t good.”

The survey found that 74 percent of teachers think layoffs should be based on many factors, not just seniority—which matches AAE’s 2011 member survey results.

Less Enthusiasm for Merit Pay
Teachers largely agree higher salaries would help teacher retention, with 75 percent of respondents saying they are essential or very important, but only 16 percent of respondents said merit pay would help keep good teachers. Just 26 percent of teachers said merit pay would have a strong or very strong impact on student achievement.

Supportive school leadership and family involvement were ranked most important in terms of teacher retention.

High Job Satisfaction
Survey respondents indicate job satisfaction is high among teachers, with 89 percent saying they are satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs. Sixteen percent of teachers said they planned to leave the profession, compared to 29 percent of teachers in a recent MetLife Survey of the American Teacher.

“Studies like these are critical in promoting needed change in our system,” said Schroek. “Teachers are on the front lines in American classrooms and deserve a voice in implementing these policies.”


Teacher Support for Key Reforms

Tenure & Seniority

92% say tenure should not protect ineffective teachers

74% say seniority should be one of many factors affecting layoffs

14% say seniority should be the only factor affecting layoffs

39% say tenure should be granted after five to 10 years of teaching

15% of teachers say tenure should be granted after 10 years of teaching

7% of teachers say tenure decisions should not be associated with years of teaching at all

Teacher Evaluations

85% say student achievement growth is the most important measure of their performance

95% say formal principal observations and reviews should happen annually

80% say tenured teachers should be regularly reevaluated

Merit Pay

75% say salary is important to retaining good teachers

16% say performance pay helps retain good teachers

70% say monetary rewards for improving student achievement affect teacher retention


Image by the University of Central Arkansas.