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Want to know what teachers really think of your new evaluation system? See their responses in the latest Primary Sources report.

Education is changing at a dizzying pace, from Common Core implementation to mobile learning to new ways to rate teacher effectiveness. It can be hard to step away from planning your next step to review how well previous initiatives have gone. Let this update from the third edition of Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change be your chance to reflect. Gathering opinions from 20,000 public school teachers, Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation teamed up to put out a 106-page report full of thoughts on CCSS, new evaluation systems, and how teachers prefer to collaborate.

Let’s start with an important fact: The more teachers’ voices are heard, the happier they are in their jobs. Nearly 70 percent felt their opinions were valued at the school level, but just three in 10 felt those same opinions carried weight at the district level. Of those who felt listened to at the district, state, or national level, 52 percent were “very satisfied” with their jobs. That number slid to 38 percent if the teachers felt listened to only at the school level, and down to 19 percent if not listened to at all.

As these charts show, teachers are full of opinions about how they are evaluated. While the report covers a number of areas, this quote from a middle school teacher sums up the prevailing sentiment: “I wish that teachers could receive feedback on a regular basis that was a narrative of what we are doing well and where we need to grow.” Also worth noting is that the more experience a teacher has, the less likely the evaluation system is to help improve his or her teaching.

The report also quantified how classroom dynamics are changing. Breaking students into seven categories ranging from ELLs to special ed to gifted students, a full 23 percent of teachers say they have all seven groups in one class. It’s no surprise that these teachers also cite large class size as one of the most significant challenges they face. Teachers say they worry most about reaching the new Common Core standards with students working two or more grades below grade level and ELL students.

While these are national statistics, they should force you to find out exactly how your teachers feel by soliciting their opinions on matters big and small. The last thing you want to hear is the sentiment from this high school teacher: “In general, the changes to the curriculum and the way teachers are evaluated could be positive, but the pace of change is just overwhelming. Many teachers are extremely stressed out.” 

What Should Happen vs. What Actually Happens
Frequency with which feedback from observations outside of formal evaluation.

Should occur    
Ongoing feedback: 47%
2-4 times a year or more: 34%
Once every few years to once a year: 16%
Never: 3%

Actually occurs
Ongoing feedback: 20%
2-4 times a year or more: 31%
Once every few years to once a year: 12%
Never: 37%

How New Is Your Evaluation System?

19% adopted a new system in 2011-12
27% switched in 2012-13
23% expect to add a new system in 2013-14
6% might debut a new system by 2014-15
26% no plans to create a new system 

Digging Deeper on Eval Feedback 
Teachers in these states had the highest percentage of getting PD customized to meet their needs.

Alabama: 29%
Kentucky/South Carolina: 24%
Arkansas/Colorado/Tennessee/Texas: 18%
Oregon: 17%

How Helpful Are Evals For Improving Your Teaching?

22% Not at all helpful
49% Somewhat Helpful
8% Extremely Helpful
21% Very Helpful 

When I collaborate with colleagues, I …

76% exchange or share resources/lesson plans
68% learn from their successes and challenges
68% discuss how to best meet needs of individual students
66% review student data

Parent-Teacher Conferences

28% of teachers are willing to have parent–teacher conferences at students’ homes
10% report making home visits.

Summer 2014

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