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Waiting to Be Won Over: Teachers Speak on the Profession, Unions, and Reform

Abstract

"American public education is in the midst of intense change, and teachers, in particular, are facing pressure to produce better outcomes for students. As policymakers, teachers unions, and other stakeholders react to changing demands on the nation's public education system, there remains considerable debate about what teachers think and what they want. Too often assumptions define the conversation rather than actual evidence of teachers' views. In an effort to facilitate and inform this conversation, Education Sector and the FDR Group surveyed 1,010 K-12 public school teachers about their views on the teaching profession, teachers unions, and a host of reforms aimed at improving teacher quality.

The survey asks specific questions about the work teachers do and about reform proposals that are currently being debated. It also examines the views of new teachers and veterans. And, when possible, the survey discerns trends by asking some identical questions from a 2003 national survey of K-12 public school teachers and comparing the responses.

This report is organized into four sections. The first highlights key findings about the challenges that teachers see in their profession, including weak evaluation processes and a rigid tenure and pay system. The second section describes how teachers feel about a range of reforms aimed at improving their profession, from new evaluation approaches to differential pay proposals. The third section focuses on teachers' opinions about their union and what they feel the union role should be in improving teacher quality. The final section examines some key points of comparison between new teachers, who have been on the job fewer than five years, and veteran teachers, who have been teaching for more than 20 years."

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