Primary Sources 2012: America's Teachers Get Personal

3/16/2012 3:00:00 PM

Each day, America’s teachers are doing all they can—both in and out of the classroom—to reach their students and help them learn.

Public school teachers are working nearly 11-hour days. They are altering instruction to meet the needs of students who struggle with school. They are having parent-teacher conferences at students’ homes to accommodate busy parents. They are a consistent presence in the lives of students who are homeless, and a source of food for those who arrive at school hungry.

Today, in Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession, a new report from Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 10,000 teachers tell a powerful story about the more than three million men and women who teach in America’s public schools.

In the report, teachers reaffirm their commitment to raising student achievement, share important ideas on measuring the performance of both their students and themselves, reveal the truth about the challenges that are growing for our students and our schools, and offer their thoughts on the ways to keep great teachers in the profession.

Some key findings:

  • Challenges facing students are significant and growing: 46% of veteran teachers say they are seeing fewer students prepared for challenging work than when they began teaching in their current schools. 56% are seeing more students living in poverty, and 49% are seeing more students coming to school hungry.

  • Teaching is not a bell-to-bell profession. The average teacher works a 10 hour, 40 minute day—that number rises to 11 hours, 20 minutes with coaching sports or advising extracurricular activities.

  • Teachers want more frequent evaluation of their practice. Teachers are eager for all forms of evaluation in order to improve their practice. They are open to everything from principal and peer reviews, to assessment of their own content area knowledge, to parent and teacher surveys of their work—and they’d like all of these things to happen more frequently than they currently do.

  • Standardized tests aren’t telling the whole story. Only 25% of teachers believe that standardized tests accurately reflect their students’ skill. Moreover, only 45% of teachers believe that their students take the tests seriously and perform on them to the best of their ability.

  • Teachers value a community of committed colleagues. While 75% of teachers say salaries are essential or very important to retaining great teachers, other factors such as supportive leaders, in-school support staff, and time to collaborate with peers all rank higher on the list of factors that keep teachers in their jobs.

To download the full Primary Sources report, or take the survey, visit It’s worth the read.

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