Survey of Georgia teachers reveals ‘a workforce that feels devalued and constantly under pressure.’

Today, Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods shares the findings of a statewide teacher survey that sought to figure out why so many teachers are fleeing the profession. In his column, Woods explains how he plans to respond to the findings.

A very troubling one to me: Two out of three teacher respondents stated that they are unlikely or very unlikely to recommend teaching as a profession to a student about to graduate high school—an alarming figure considering the substantial role that teachers play in motivating students to pursue a job in the field.

The report explains:

Next, the respondents were given a list of eight possible causes for the high attrition rate. These options were chosen from elements of education that may be directly affected through policy. For this reason other influential causes (e.g. raising children, student discipline) were not included. There was also provided space to expand on why teachers believe their first ranked cause was such an issue.

Through these two inquiries teachers described a profession that was overcrowded with mandated tests, evaluated by unfair or unreliable measures, and constantly being changed without any input from the professionals inside the classroom. All occurring while being compensated poorly when time and experience are taken into account.

The final question asked for additional reasons that teachers may be leaving at such a high rate. The tens of thousands of responses displayed the effects of the current state of teaching in Georgia: a workforce that feels devalued and constantly under pressure. Without significant changes in the future, what is a significant problem now may well be a crisis in the future of teaching, if it is not already.

For more information, go to this AJC news story.

With that background, here is Woods’ response:

By Richard Woods

Currently, 44% of Georgia’s newly hired teachers are dropping out of the profession by year five. Equally alarming is that there was a 16% dip from 2010 to 2014 in the number of candidates entering Georgia’s teacher preparation programs.

Georgia Superintendent Richard Woods endorses changes announced tody to APUSH framework. (DOE Photo)

Georgia Superintendent Richard Woods

For students, this could mean larger class sizes, fewer opportunities, and a decreased chance of being taught by a quality teacher.

To find the root cause of this growing crisis, the Georgia Department of Education surveyed current and former teachers to ask them what factors they felt were pushing them or their colleagues out of the profession. Within three weeks, more than 53,000 Georgia teachers – almost half of the state’s teacher workforce – responded to our survey ( view the full report here), showing that teachers were ready to talk about this critical issue.

The results were enlightening. The top reason teachers selected for leaving the profession was “Number of state mandated tests” with “Method for evaluating teachers” as a close second. Though “Compensation/Benefits” was an option and ranked higher than the average, it was not listed in the top three.

Teachers were given an option to explain why they picked their top cause and their comments were striking. Many teachers not only explained how the cause they chose was pushing their colleagues out of the profession, but also how the cause was damaging to their students. Many teachers doubted that anyone would read their comments and that any change would come. Their comments weren’t made cynically, but were expressed in a candid tone that reflected on a profession that they felt was fading away. Some of their concerns are rooted in what’s reflected in the words of state law; others in the actions brought forth by the department’s interpretation and implementation of those laws.

Ask almost any teacher, and he or she can tell you who inspired them to go into teaching. For me, it was Mrs. Phillips. Our survey asked teachers: “If you had a student about to graduate from high school, how likely would you be to encourage teaching as a profession?” Only 2.7% of teachers said it was very likely they would encourage their students to go into teaching, while 33.2% of teachers said it was very unlikely they would encourage their students to pursue teaching. This tells us the crisis will only get worse if action isn’t taken.

In the short term, these are steps I am committed to taking:

•With regard to the teacher evaluation system, the department launched a tiered-observation pilot at the beginning of this year in a handful of districts. In keeping with the recommendation of the Education Reform Commission and my belief in a measured approach to accountability, we will be scaling this statewide so administrators are able to spend more time with newer or struggling teachers. We know one-size-fits-all doesn’t work for our students and it doesn’t work when evaluating our teachers, either.

•Working with the State Board and those in the General Assembly, I will be pushing for the elimination of Milestones testing requirements for students who participate in Move On When Ready and earn an “A” or “B” in their college classes. My goal for the long term is to look at other options like AP and IB exams to further reduce the number of Milestones students have to take.

•In addition to the above, we are conducting a statewide audit of testing, examining what, why, and how much we test, and the impact of testing on learning and teaching. Currently, 177 school districts have already voluntarily provided us with their testing requirements.

•I have also instructed the Department of Education staff to examine testing and educational accountability within our state. I continue to be in contact with educators, elected officials, State Board of Education members, and a variety of stakeholders to discuss these and other issues. Some efforts will require the support of those beyond the department.

During my first school visit, a teacher told me she had discouraged her daughter from going into teaching. Since then, I have had countless similar conversations with teachers across Georgia, and more than 53,000 voices are represented by this survey. I ask that teachers continue to provide feedback to me and other elected officials.

Over the past year, I have traveled to almost 70 counties in our state. The tireless efforts of our teacher workforce have been exemplary. Countless times, teachers have made the same request as I visit: “I just want to be able to know my kids and teach them what they need to know.” Their focus and concern has always been on the children of Georgia.

I am confident that by working together, we can restore to our current and future teachers the ability to teach their students effectively – and the joy of teaching. We must – and will – employ a teacher workforce that is second to none. Georgia public education is poised to offer our children great opportunities. We need to ensure there are great teachers to open these doors.

Richard Woods, a 22-year public school educator and former small business owner, is Georgia’s School Superintendent.

Reader Comments 1

71 comments
carolynangel
carolynangel

Why are the school administrators not doing exit interiews? The survey was asking people who did not leave instead of the people who actually left. This makes no sense. In any other organization, HR does exit interviews to help determine causes of turnover.

Verda16
Verda16

Three comments: follow the money, look at the one who is driving the ship and poor workers remain on the job because of poor supervisors. Take money to brag about who we can become with it, then not have the plan or personnel to do it, and we are sunk. Have a governor with his appointed board running policy without input from the DOE, and we are sunk. Give responsibility for ensuring that teachers are properly hired, trained and evaluated to do a good in the classroom to managers who have no training or supervisory experience to do it right, and we are sunk. Never mind societal and cultural changes. Just look at the top layer of governance and anyone can see why, "We are sunk." I am a "retiring" teacher. I no longer have the ability to comply with what it takes to be a successful teacher in the state of Georgia. 27 years of experience and I can no longer be the best teacher my students have ever had in school. Governance has spoken, and it doesn't make sense to me any more.

jerryeads
jerryeads

Welcome to the grizzled curmudgeon club, majordawg :-)

Well said.

majordawg
majordawg

This will undoubtedly be met by a new or multiple new initiatives to create positive change. None of the initiatives will be studied over time nor will they be linked, in any meaningful way, to student performance, teacher effectiveness, or teacher satisfaction. This survey, which bemoans the top down approach to education reform will be met with, more top down education reform.

And what of the fact that teachers are excluded from the decision making process? Let's make teachers decision makers, here. A noble goal. When do you pull teachers into the process? I'm not interested in that meeting. I want to teach. Sure, teachers will volunteer by the hundreds if not thousands to be included in the decision making process. But only those who find participation in the bureaucratic morass to be MORE useful than time in their classroom? Is that who we want making the decisions? Do the meetings in the summer? That might help. The real solution? Recruit the best teachers. Ask students, parents, fellow teachers and administrators who inspires them to do their best. That's who you want. And how do you get them? Beg them and pay them. If you offer teachers a REAL incentive that might help. The thing about summer is, if it weren't for summer, I'd have quit the job a long time ago. Sadly, the reality is, teachers are cynical about anything like this and they won't assume that they can make a difference. They'll assume that this is just another initiative that they're being hogtied into so that those in charge can stamp the program "teacher driven". This has been the case far too often in the past. Were it not for my absolutely dogged determination and refusal to yield to the "consensus" in a meeting in about 1999, Gwinnett County Schools likely would have taught Economics to freshmen for years or perhaps still might. I sat in the meeting and we were presented the plan to move Econ to the 9th grade year and after several other teachers fresh to the profession were convinced, I was asked, "Come on, John. Don't you think this can work? We need consensus on this." My response was, "You can do it if you want to, but you'll never be able to put my name on it and I'll tell people I was against it."Ultimately, this is good news. Because I hope that we'll have less standardized testing and that we'll stop using standardized testing as the barometer for teacher evaluations. If that's all that comes from this, that's enough.Feel free to tell me I'm a grizzled curmudgeon who only wants to be left alone in my classroom. Fine. I've been called worse by people whose opinion I value more. But don't tell me I'm wrong until I've been proven so. When sweeping change results in more satisfied teachers as a result of the initiative born from this study, I'll admit I was wrong.Finally, I'm going to admit to something. I love teaching. I do. I do not love it as much as I did five years ago. There are a lot of reasons for that. Some of them have nothing to do with anything mentioned in this article or survey. (This isn't the main thing, but kids are very different now than 5-10 years ago. Way back then, I rarely had to convince students that it might be in their best interest to let me help them earn college credit for less $100, on a daily or hourly basis.) So, I discourage young people from going into teaching. I love my profession. It's noble. However, if today was 24 years ago and I was making the decision about my future career and I knew all that I know now, I'm pretty sure I'd make another choice. Not certain, but I probably wouldn't do it all over again because, I want to teach.

jerryeads
jerryeads

The DOE survey reflects the answers I received from 20,000 Georgia teachers in my 2007 survey. Nine years ago, nobody downtown cared. 

I'm absolutely ecstatic that at least a few folks in positions of some authority are beginning to pay attention to what we've done to the teaching profession - actually starting around fifty years ago with the widespread application of a mathematical model enabling the rapid (i.e., cheap) development of parallel forms for what are known as minimum competency tests.

Yesterday I wrote but did not post a note comparing our past and current testing to using a dull splintered stick as a particular kind of thermometer. If the test taker bled, maybe they were alive. ONE test, at the individual and even the classroom level, is about that accurate.

Sorry everyone, our testing technology really is that poor, and yet those who know nothing about teaching have forced even our best schools to become rote recall factories where learning is drudgery and the joy of teaching has been lost to sitdownshutupandcounttoahundred. Even our "preschools" and kindergartens have become worksheet mills where our youngest learn to hate school even before they can read.

Assessment - "testing" - is an absolutely necessary part of teaching and learning. But it's done by teachers every second of every day, not by some low-bid piece of junk foisted on them once a year. Want to REALLY improve schooling? Help teachers become as good at daily assessment (which is not just "testing") as the best of them are.

Not at all to slight the hundreds of thousands of fabulous teachers who stick it out in spite of the ugliness we have created with our faux accountability, but I'll recall an old adage which explains our present LONG created "crisis": "The best leave first. Because they can."

carolynangel
carolynangel

@jerryeads I thought it was those with less than five years of experience who were leaving. I would not think that they would be the best.


RealEducator
RealEducator

As a teacher that has been in the profession for a long time and been around a LOT of teachers and a LOT of students, I can say without a doubt the issue here is a lack of understanding of the problem. The best the politicians, media, and naysayers (people who have never set foot in a classroom) can do is make you afraid of it and tell you who is to blame for it---no solutions forthcoming. Uninformed, reactionary, and biased people continue to be the ones dictating the direction of education. Contrary to some of the remarks here, I can tell you the vast majority of teachers are in the profession for the right reasons, work very hard, and care about their students and their academic growth. The media and everyone else can focus on the low % of teachers who don't do their job...just as they do with law enforcement....and things will continue to be where they are now. I don't care what profession you are in. If you feel underpaid, unappreciated, and have no say (which is where teachers in GA feel they are now), you are going to leave. People who don't teach can believe everything the see, read, hear from those who don't if they want to, but overwhelming standardized tests, taking away merit pay (besides degrees, the only way a teacher can raise their salary), and holding teacher's SOLELY responsible for a student's grades is NOT the answer.

Starik
Starik

@RealEducator "Contrary to some of the remarks here, I can tell you the vast majority of teachers are in the profession for the right reasons, work very hard, and care about their students and their academic growth."  In Fulton County, that may well be true - but what about the bad systems? RealEd, which districts are you familiar with? 

Jamesr1991
Jamesr1991

Oo, Oo, me me can you make me  a teacher? I'd love the opportunity to have two careers. A teacher and gate worker at the Airport during the summer.

Min Moe
Min Moe

Some observations: The over testing is ridiculous but this was implemented because LOTS of teachers did little or nothing in the classroom.  Not all teachers are inspired, motivated, hard working, etc. This is a reality, its terrible, but a reality.  I can speak to the STEM field (Science, TEch, Engineering, Math). In many cases the salaries for teachers are NOT competitive compared to people with degrees in these areas going to professional schools, taking jobs in gov't or industry, as military officers, etc.  This is not true in areas like history, English or the Arts - yet teachers are all paid similar salaries.  Finally, I get a kick out of people, especially parents, that say teaching 25 students for 5 to 6 hours a day is easy.  than go home to grade and do lesson plans for the next day.  These same parents can NOT spend six hours straight with their own kids, they just stick them in front of a screen.     

liberal4life
liberal4life

@Min Moe 

"The over testing is ridiculous but this was implemented because LOTS of teachers did little or nothing in the classroom."


Really? What data support your statement?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Min Moe The over-testing was implemented because no one could trust teachers' grades (not necessarily the teachers' fault).  When a sixth-grader who cannot do third-grade work is given a "D" because the ADMINISTRATOR says not to flunk anyone, the public is going to start demanding standardized tests.  Then schools like the APS system just start cheating.

jezel
jezel

@liberal4life @Min Moe Testing was implemented as part of the plan to TAKE OVER SCHOOLS.....and allow certain entities to gain control of money ear marked for education.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@ScienceTeacher671 @class80olddog @Min Moe  That is why we USED to have the GHSGT - to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Of course, they did away with that and gave diplomas to all those who failed the test (repeatedly).  You have to have standardized tests and you have to enforce the standards - traditional schools refuse to enforce standards (CC or otherwise).  That is why the public is clamoring for charters and vouchers and choice.

Starik
Starik

@liberal4life @Min Moe The poor test results?  As I recall, the percentage of kids with poor results goes up as they arrive in the upper grades.

Robin Gantt
Robin Gantt

@liberal4life @Min Moe After a day like today, constantly moving among my students encouraging them to complete their assignment, getting disrespect when redirecting them, and accused of having anger management problems when I never raised my voice and spoke in calm, deliberate tones, this statement undermines what I do. I am required to make phone calls for problems, incomplete work, failing grades, absences, lack of supplies...I have over 100 students. My "planning" time is taken up with curriculum meetings, professional learning, and team meetings three times a week. On Monday's and Friday's we schedule parent conferences. We makes these phone calls on OUR time and generally on OUR phones. I take work home with me most every evening and complete lesson plans over the weekend. Where do you get your information that we "did little or nothing" in the classroom? This comment is another reason why teachers are leaving the field.


Denise Denney Hamby
Denise Denney Hamby

Mr. Woods, I really appreciate you and pray for you daily because you are a Godly man who seeks to do what is right and good. I answered the survey honestly and I will say that I am in the group of teachers that would not recommend a high school student go into the education field. I say this not because I do not love my job, I really do! I love to see students come to school as little empty vessels that I can help fill their minds with essential learning and new adventures. I do feel that we do less teaching today than in the past, today's elementary school teachers are so overwhelmed with keeping up with state mandated standards and concerned with TKES- we cannot focus on what is the most important reason we chose this profession- our students. I chose to become a teacher, not because I wanted an easy job, but because I love seeing children grow and learn. I did this without any financial assistance from the state. I am still paying back student loans and this takes a chunk out of my already minimal salary. Again, I say this not because I chose this profession for the monetary value but because of the educational value I could give back to my community. It hurts a teachers feelings when we hear we are only in it for the money and three months vacation. This is not and has never been the case. Thanks for continuing to work for your Georgia teachers, Mr. Woods!

Evelyn Carol Perry
Evelyn Carol Perry

@Denise Denney Hamby Tell me who gets "three months vacation"?  Most schools are in session, for teachers, from the end of June until early August.  Plus, the 10 month pay is divided into twelve months!  

fbanta
fbanta

I doubt that the state will do anything to remedy the problem.  Teachers should teach students how to learn; they should not be agents of social engineering.


Students should be grouped by their demonstrated ability to learn so that teachers can actually teach effectively.  Students should be advanced solely by their mastery of specific subjects.


Disruptive students should be removed from general classrooms so that the students who want to learn have an environment in which they can learn.  Discipline is the essential foundation of learning.


If a teacher has capable students; and students are accountable for learning the result will be job satisfaction for teachers.  Teachers want to teach and challenge: it's about educating, not day care.

Bitcoined
Bitcoined

For decades the National Education Association has been in the forefront supporting policies, causes and court cases making it impossible to discipline disruptive black students. Or to remove them from the classroom.

Yet somehow the NEA escapes any blame for the results.

dg417s
dg417s

@Bitcoined Will you please cite specific examples of policies supported by NEA that make it "impossible to discipline disruptive black students. Or to remove them from the classroom."? 

Bitcoined
Bitcoined

Those really interested in facts can google "NEA" and "contributions" to see the long list of Democrats and liberal racial grievance groups the union's money goes to.

ClayNewton
ClayNewton

Yes. This is clearly the problem of Black students. Somehow their existence accounts for the diminishing workforce. If only we could implement good old fashioned hangings.

Do you hear how stupid that sounds?

You're an idiot.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@ClayNewton No it is not a problem with just Black students - but with all students who misbehave.  The trouble is that there are those who say that Black students are unfairly punished too much (even if they commit more and worse offenses).  So some schools respond to this by letting black students off the hook and just not disciplining the,  Myself, I have a dream of a school system where the decision to discipline is made based on the content of the persons character and not the color of their skin (as is now the case).

Evelyn Carol Perry
Evelyn Carol Perry

@fbanta It's not in vogue now to 'track' students by dividing them into 'high', 'middle', and 'low' groups, i.e heterogenous vs homogenous grouping.....It's called tracking.  For some reason, that goes in and out of fashion....I think, but can't be sure, the powers that be think the lower scoring students will learn from the higher scoring students, and not just the teacher(s).  Many principals don't even believe in taking gifted students for a day or a portion of a day to work with them independently, is a valid idea!  But....if you speak with the leaders in the field of gifted education, they will say that gifted students need to be grouped together in order to grow intellectually.  (see Dr. Sally Reis or Dr. Joseph Renzulli's writings, University of Connecticut.)






mgnance
mgnance

I appreciate the Superintendant's remarks and his apparent support for the concerns of teachers. That said, the bottom line is action. If his words are to be taken seriously, let's see action. One tangible step he can take is to terminate the SLO testing program. Apart from it being poorly conceived, the execution wastes enormous amounts of instructional time and manpower. I think the Superintendant could end this with a word. If he's serious, he will.

Bitcoined
Bitcoined

Mr. Woods won election only because the alternative would have been the teachers' union stooge.

The result, here, isn't reassuring.

Bitcoined
Bitcoined

What the teachers' union does here in Right to Work states is use their money to stymie education reform and elect Democrats.

Their media allies eagerly help with both.

jm-roswell
jm-roswell

@cullen7282 @Bitcoined Actually, they aren't even allowed to do that.

20-2-989.10. Collective bargaining not permitted or fostered. Nothing in this part shall be construed to permit or foster collective bargaining as part of the state rules or local unit of administration policies.

liberal4life
liberal4life

@Bitcoined 


Well, they sure haven't been too successful in electing more Democrats, have they? How much money have they spent? What education reform were "stymied" by the union  - in the state that is controlled by the Repukes and Teabags?

cullen7282
cullen7282

@Bitcoined They are a professional organization in Georgia.  The school boards can choose to sit down and talk to them or choose not to.  There is no requirement, no contract negotiation, they hold no power.

mgnance
mgnance

What teachers' union? You obviously don't know much about teaching in this state. Even if you are a card-carrying member of NEA and PAGE, there are no "benefits" that unions provide and certainly no contract negotiation. Wake up or move back to New York where there really are teacher unions.

GArunner
GArunner

Interesting thoughts but Georgia is a non-union state.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Bitcoined No one in Georgia would be a member of Page or GAE if the membership did not offer cheap legal services. 

cyadra
cyadra

Oh so he is going to form another committee to look at testing, when the issues were with teaching and the teaching profession. Yeah, one more year for me to get vested in the pension system and I am out of this crummy state. 

Legong
Legong

So student discipline wasn't included as a choice, in a voluntary survey which fewer than half of teachers (self-selected) bothered to take.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Legong  Neither were the effects of attendance non-enforcement and social promotion.

SS88
SS88

The real question is whether or not this report, which is merely written confirmation of what was already known, stands a chance against the wishes and desires of a $2 billion testing monopoly that has invested millions in lobbyists and campaign contributions to push test-happy education policies that lead to greater profits for the 4 companies that control the testing industry.

My guess (considering that we have already seen the 11 Alive ALEC secret bill writing session in Savannah report) is a resounding NO.  At least not until they have broken the system beyond repair and bled it dry of every thin red dime they can before they move on to their next target (pre-schools perhaps? they are the only schools not currently in the test taking mill).

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Bitcoined  And because teachers give grades that do not truly reflect the level of learning (for whatever reasons).

leilow3
leilow3

@class80olddog @Bitcoined Actually, studies show that teacher grades in high school are a much better predictor of success in college than a standardized test. This is just one study, but you can find a great deal of quality research on the topic: 


http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/predicting-success-placement-tests-transcripts.html


A pattern of success graded by trained educators who work with the student over a sustained period time is far more useful than performance on one test. This is why grade point averages remain while we endure a parade of ever changing standardized tests. Colleges know this, and I think most parents do too. I have a high school student who is a gifted, excellent test taker. However, my barometer of his success is his grades, because his teachers require dedication and perseverance that no standardized test can ever measure. 


Bitcoined
Bitcoined

Tests are given because parents and concerned taxpayers insist on them -- not because of imaginary hobgoblins.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@SS88 

Unfortunately, the profit factor which is seeping into public education, via ALEC, certain Republican private/charter school interests, and "a $2 billion testing monopoly," has the potential to destroy public education if citizens are not aware, educated, and wary.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared


"Next, the respondents were given a list of eight possible causes for the high attrition rate. These options were chosen from elements of education that may be directly affected through policy. For this reason other influential causes (e.g. raising children, student discipline) were not included."


State School Superintendent's office states "student discipline" cannot be "directly affected through policy".


Talk about the inmates running the asylum!