TELL Survey Results Show Teachers Eager to Engage

TELL Survey Results Show Teachers Eager to Engage

It makes sense that if you want to know about how well something is going, you ask those directly impacted by it … right? Unfortunately, in the field of education, and especially in the area of teacher reform, this doesn’t always happen in a very streamlined or productive way. Reform efforts are often implemented from the top-down, and sometimes teachers feel their voice on the ground isn’t really being heard or integrated into improving programs in a meaningful way.

Many states are now recognizing the need to better collaborate with those most directly affected by teaching reform initiatives (the teachers themselves) and are putting resources into ensuring that teachers have an opportunity to share what they think about their work and the conditions associated with where they work. More than twenty states administer the TELL survey annually (see: for more information). The survey asks educators what they think about their work environment, the leadership in their school, the quality of resources, the availability of professional development activities, and a host of other topics—all of which are issues that teachers care about profoundly.

States that administer the survey have been releasing the results over the past few weeks and the findings are interesting in that they seem to contradict some of what is popularly communicated in the media. For example, in Tennessee, 90 percent of survey respondents said they are trusted to make professional decisions and have the autonomy to do so. In North Carolina, 91 percent of teachers say they have opportunities to assume leadership responsibilities in their school. More than 90 percent of Kentucky’s teachers responded to the TELL survey and 85 percent of them reported that the school they work in is a good place to work and learn.

The very high response rates on the TELL survey indicate that educators welcome the opportunity to share their views on a host of issues related to their work. Their willingness to respond is an indication that we should consider additional ways to include their voice in developing policy solutions to the myriad of challenges found in schools across this country. One way we can do this is by engaging teachers when policies that impact them are developed as opposed to asking them what they think once policies are being implemented. While the latter has value, including them on the front-end of policy development has the potential to: build educator support of the policy, increase the likelihood of sustainability, and more accurately identify what resources educators will need to successfully implement policy. Educators are a wealth of knowledge, they understand the business of educating students better than any other professional. Tapping into their expertise is a logical approach to creating policy that has the potential to transform the way students are educated.

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