According to a new report by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change, just 29% of teachers consider their formal evaluations to be “extremely helpful” or “very helpful” in improving their teaching practice.

“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,” said one middle school teacher.

The survey of more than 20,000 teachers in PreK through grade 12 nationwide, conducted online in July 2013, reports that teachers who do not find their evaluations extremely or very helpful want more feedback (42%), increased fairness in the evaluation process (30%), and a desire for more—and better-qualified—evaluators and observers (23%).

Frequent Classroom Visits

Despite concerns about the fairness of the evaluation process, teachers say that they value the opportunity to grow their practice through evaluation, observation, feedback and professional development. Three-quarters (77%) of teachers think that they should receive a formal evaluation at least once a year, and nearly all teachers (99%) believe that they should receive one at least once every few years.

Some teachers think that the evaluation process should be woven into everyday instruction, with professional development and classroom resources tailored as a result of evaluations.

“I wish principals would pop into our classrooms all the time, even daily, rather than do the formal 40-minute evaluations,” said one elementary school teacher.

A middle school teacher agreed, saying, “In theory, evaluations should be ongoing with feedback to help you improve your practice.”

Big Changes

Nearly 7 in 10 teachers reported that their schools have transitioned to a new evaluation system in the past few years. Because such systems are often determined at the state level, the data vary significantly across states, with 27% of teachers saying that their state adopted a new system in 2012-2013 and 23% reporting that their state adopted a new system this school year.

Such changes, coupled with the new Common Core Standards, have meant a changing landscape in education that is not without costs.

“In general, the changes to the curriculum and the way teachers are evaluated could be positive, but the pace of change is just overwhelming, and many teachers are extremely stressed out,” said one high school teacher.

“Teachers need the time and resources to do their jobs well,” said Francie Alexander, Scholastic’s Chief Academic Officer, in response to the survey. “Rather than talking at them, we should listen to them.”

About Primary Sources

A new survey, Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change, reflects the views of more than 20,000 public school teachers in Pre-K through grade 12 nationwide.

A joint project of Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the report delves into the challenges and rewards of the teaching profession; teachers’ views about the Common Core State Standards; the desire for feedback that is fair and ensures professional growth; and how teachers use technology to collaborate with peers. 

Download the complete Primary Sources report here.