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TEACHER SURVEY: Parents just don't understand

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Nearly half of district educators say parents, community does not support them

By Brent Schanding

 CAMPBELL COUNTY—Nearly half of district teachers say parents and guardians aren’t doing enough to promote academic success for their students. That’s according to one finding of a recent statewide TELL survey. 

From Feb. 18 through March 22, all school-based licensed educators in Tennessee were asked to complete the “Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning” online survey using an anonymous access code. Educators were encouraged to share their perceptions on a variety of issues on student achievement and teacher retention. Data will be used to improve the teaching and learning conditions in the state’s schools and districts. 

The findings highlight several issues educators face, according to their own reports as revealed through the comprehensive survey. 

District-wide, only 52 percent of Campbell County educators surveyed believe parents and guardians are contributing to the academic success of their students. At Campbell County HIgh School alone, 67 percent of educators made that same claim. Across the state that figure was dramatically different.

About 71 percent of teachers statewide believe parents are doing enough to enhance student achievement. 

Additionally, only 64 percent of teachers here believe the community supports them, according to the survey. That compares to nearly 83 percent across the state who say the community is supportive, the survey shows. 

“Teachers feel parents must be equal partners in accepting responsibility in helping students achieve academically at school,” said Tammie Lay, elementary supervisor for the Campbell County School System. “Parents should check with the teacher regularly to see how things are going as the year progresses and follow up by talking with their child about school work and academic progress in all subjects. This means attending parent-teacher conferences, having conversations with teachers by phone or e-mail if they can’t attend face to face meetings with teachers.”

Lay, who spoke on behalf of district teachers, said parental involvement is a major factor in a child’s primary academic career, beginning with pre-school and culminating at high school graduation.

According to the district’s Parent Involvement Facilitator, Billie Olvey, several outreach programs are available for parents to become involved in their child’s education. The Parent Volunteer Program with Title I, which provides background checks and training at each school, is one such outreach program to boost parent’s involvement.  

“Our schools partner with local businesses, faith based groups, the Sheriff’s Department, and other county agencies to build capacity for parents and the community to become involved and be aware of resources available to them,” Lay added.  “All schools have adopted the National PTO’s ‘Six Stands of Parent Involvement; as required by the state and are currently in the progressing to excelling stage of implementation at schools across the county.”

 

 

PARENTAL REACTION

We asked our more than 1,800 Facebook fans — which includes hundreds of local parents — for their reaction to the educator survey. Many supported educator concerns that parents aren’t doing their part to support classroom efforts. 

“I would say that they’re 100 percent correct,” Campbell County father Shawn Inman wrote. “I would say that probably 25-30 percent of the parents are too worried about their ‘habits’ to focus on helping their child better themselves so they can get out and try to make Campbell County a better place to live.”

Inman said his own children aren’t enrolled in the district yet — but will be in a couple of years. However, Inman still cares about the quality of education in the county.

“I know it’s not all of the parents’ fault,” he added. “I know people struggle with jobs and bills.”

Anna Moritz is another advocate of local educators. She has three children in Campbell County schools and said teachers here are working hard to better the district. However, she often worries about their relentless schedules and says it no doubt takes a toll on teachers.  

Moritz described one of her daughter’s teachers as “outgoing and awesome.  But at the end of the day, Moritz said the teacher just  seems exhausted. 

Heather Carroll-Brook is a parent of three students at LaFollette Elementary— including a kindergartner, second grader and third grader.  She reports her children love their teachers and interaction is more than adequate. 

“We check in with each other quite a bit…” she wrote, in part. 

And Campbell County mother’s like Tonya Thomas seemingly have no complaints about teacher relations. 

“My daughter’s kindergarten teacher is awesome,” Thomas wrote. “I will really miss her next year.”

But others rebuked teacher comments and partly blamed educators for failing their students.

Terri Bowlin-Guy has a fifth grader at LaFollette Elementary School, as well as a fifth-grade niece at Valley View Elementary. 

“The communication between the teachers and parents is horrible,” she said. “I also feel that some —not all—teachers are not very caring of their students.”

Other external factors seemingly affect parent-teacher relations, according to one social media commentator. 

“Part of the problem is also that these days — among the working families — both parents are likely having to work,” wrote Donna Green Pilkey. “It may be difficult for some parents, especially if they’re working evening shifts while grandma or whoever, watches the kids.”

Another says these educational issues can partly be blamed on inexperienced or ineffective school board members.  

“The only thing that will help Campbell County Schools is when they take politics out of it and go back to old fashion teaching,” wrote JR Standridge. “And they also need to have school board members that have actually taught before. Not just locals who can get enough votes.”

At least two parents told the LaFollette Press they would consider — or already have adopted — a home-school curriculum for their students because they were concerned with district-wide academic policies and standards. 

 

OTHER FINDINGS

The TELL survey also showed that most Campbell County educators overwhelmingly feel safe at their workplaces.  

Despite five false bomb threats at district schools since last fall, 91 percent of district educators reported they work in a safe environment. 

“Campbell County Schools do everything in their power to ensure the safety and security of our children, teachers, and staff,” Lay said. “All schools have a safety plan in place that addresses security procedures and professional development for that safety plan is updated each year by Safety Director Johnny Bruce.”

While Lay said it’s impossible to anticipate what might happen in our county, for the past three years the district has worked with all county agencies to conduct mock disaster drills at different school sites across the county.  

“School safety enhancements currently being added are new cameras at Campbell County High School and Jellico High School, new vestibule doors for seven school locations and finding additional funding to increase school resource officers in our schools,” Lay said.

District educators also reported slightly higher approval rates than their state peers when it came to school leadership. 

More than 80 percent of district educators report “an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect” at their school. The same percentage said they feel comfortable raising issues and concerns that are important to them. 

“Teachers feel that they can go to their school administrators and they will listen to their academic and school issues,” Lay said. “Listening is a strong characteristic all our principals possess and I think that is evident by the responses of our teachers.”

But contrary to those figures, district educators cited school leadership as the No. 1 reason they might consider leaving a teaching position at their school. 

About 31 percent of district educators said school leadership affects their willingness to remain on the job — that’s more than any other reason listed in the survey. 

Other chief complaints that might make a teacher resign include: time during the work day (17 percent); instructional practices (15 percent); and facilities and resources (14 percent).

“As with any job, working conditions are the No. 1 factor for staying in the workplace,” Lay said. “Job satisfaction for teachers starts with the principal. Teachers within their profession need acknowledgement, support and feedback from the school administrator.” 

Lay said a combination of focused academic leadership and school-wide policies will help keep teachers’ satisfaction a top priority — and will retain the most effective teachers in the district.

 

SURVEY PARTICIPATION

The results from the second statewide TELL survey show more than 61,000 educators — or 82 percent — responded to the survey. That’s a 5-point increase from 2011. 

In a brief phone interview from Nashville where he was attending a conference on school safety Monday, Campbell County Director of Schools Donnie Poston said the district actively urged its educators to participate in the survey. About 71 percent of district teachers completed the online survey, with various participation rates among teachers at each of the district’s 12 schools. 

At Jacksboro Middle, every educator responded, while at Caryville Elementary only 55 of 95 teachers participated in the survey. 

 

FINDINGS ACROSS THE STATE

In the 2013 TELL survey, Tennessee saw significant growth in the percentage of teachers who felt they were required to do less routine paperwork (10.3 percentage points) and that test data is available to them soon enough for them to make changes to their instructional practices (13.5 percentage points). 

Nearly 90 percent of Tennessee’s teachers believe they are trusted to make professional decisions about instruction and are given autonomy, the survey shows.  

The TELL survey was administered by the New Teacher Center (NTC), a national organization dedicated to supporting the development of a high-quality teaching force. NTC has conducted similar surveys in other states and provides induction and professional development for teachers and principals across the country.

In a prepared statement, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said data revealed by the survey will correlate to increased student achievement across the state.

“We know that when educators feel good about the culture and climate of their school, that leads to increased results for our students,” Haslam said.  

 

Full results for each Campbell County schools, as well as other Tennessee public school districts are online at: www.telltennessee.org.