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Survey Finds that Teachers Are Doubtful About ESSA's Impact on Education

Educators for High Standards commissioned a survey that asked 800 teachers and teacher advocacy leaders about their perceptions of ESSA’s potential impact on their schools and profession as well as their role in its implementation. The results show that teachers are generally skeptical about whether the federal law will lead to significant education reforms.

The survey found that classroom teachers hold a strikingly pessimistic view of the current education landscape, with 59 percent agreeing that the country’s education system is on the wrong track. Teachers were also skeptical about whether their state’s education system would improve under ESSA. Forty-three percent of teachers regarded ESSA as “just another initiative that will not result in positive change.” On the question of whether ESSA would lead to substantive changes, 34 percent believe that their states will not enact necessary reforms, while 35 percent are uncertain about ESSA’s impact on public education.

The survey also asked teachers to rank different ways to improve teacher effectiveness using Title II money. Teachers considered mentorship programs for new teachers, career- and instruction-oriented training, and incentives to recruit and retain teachers to be the highest spending priorities. Under ESSA, states would have the flexibility to use Title II funding to improve professional development opportunities; however, the survey reveals that teachers are not confident that states will commit resources to support these critical programs.

The weariness on the part of teachers might be very well justified. As Madeline Will of Education Week points out, the Trump administration’s proposed budget calls for the zeroing out of the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants (Title II-A) program, which subsidizes states’ teacher recruitment and retention initiatives and teacher training programs.

ESSA required states to “allow for meaningful stakeholder engagement” as part of the process for determining appropriate accountability indicators. However, teachers expressed frustration in their perceived lack of input in shaping their state’s accountability systems. Even though 69 percent of them believe that educators should play a prominent role in informing education policy, 52 percent said that state and local education agencies did not seek “adequate teacher input in the development of the state ESSA plan.”

Teacher advocacy leaders were a little more optimistic about ESSA’s ability to improve the country’s education system, but they too echoed concerns about the lack of teacher involvement in states' accountability planning.

Given the findings, it’s no wonder why the report recommends that states “do more to inform and meaningfully engage teachers in the development and implementation of education policy.”


Richard Conklin, Education World Editor

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