About That NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey – The Glaring Disconnect Between the NCGA and Reality

The latest results from the North Carolina Teacher Working Conditions Survey do more than demonstrate the disconnect between those who work in schools and those who want to re-form schools; they display that what really drives the success of a school are the people – from the students to the teachers to the administration to the support staff and the community at large.

It also shows that what usually causes teachers to leave North Carolina public schools either to another state or to another profession are external forces, most of which are controlled by the people convening on West Jones Street in Raleigh.

Liz Ball recently reported on the results of the N.C. Teacher Working Conditions Survey from this past spring in her feature on EdNC.org (“Most teachers satisfied with their schools”). According to the survey “almost 87 percent of teachers who responded are happy overall in workplace.” That’s quite amazing. In a state where the General Assembly instituted a school grading system where an incredible amount of schools either received a rating of “D” and “F” (707 schools in 2015), a high percentage of those very teachers who work in those schools are satisfied with those schools. They witness something that others choose not to acknowledge – that there is so much that helps students achieve that cannot be measured by random variables.

The formula for rating schools relies heavily on standardized test scores. Yet, of the same teachers who reported an overall “positive” attitude toward their school, “only 43 percent of surveyed teachers thought state assessments accurately test students’ understanding of material.”  

There’s where the detachment is evident. Those who see schools from the inside like teachers and staff report mostly positive culture and school success. Those who view schools through the lens of government see schools that need re-forming.

And that lens needs a new prescription according to the N.C. Teacher Working Conditions Survey.

Educators tend to see success and student growth as more than an arbitrary number. A multitude of criteria are used by teachers to measure growth beyond state assessments which are usually created by and graded by outside entities hired by the state.

If you want to see how well schools are performing, it probably is wiser to go to the source itself and ask the educational experts rather than ask the General Assembly or government. Why? Because when the state government controls how schools are measured, viewed, and tested, it then controls the dialogue and ultimately the outcomes.
Those outcomes then allow policies to be created that profit a select few. Think of charter school board members. Think of out-of-state virtual school companies. Think of private schools that take in Opportunity Grant money. Think of those who will control the Achievement School District.

Now consider that none of those aforementioned entities are measured by the same criteria that label some schools as failing and many great teachers as ineffective. Why? Because those outcomes can be controlled. It’s a self-fulfilled prophecy.

A couple of years ago, North Carolina earned the satirically charged, but rather adequate new title “First in Teacher Flight”. Consider that enrollment in university/college teacher preparation programs has seismically dropped and that many faculties have lost veteran teachers to early retirement and job changes. Consider that the General Assembly has really only increased pay for beginning teachers and not the veteran teachers. Consider that due process rights have been taken away from new teachers to keep them from loudly advocating for schools once they understand how the system really operates.

No wonder the two lowest scores on the survey dealt with the state’s role in schools. Maybe the state could learn something from that.

Now one can see why this survey is so important. It enables every teacher to have input and it verifies the conditions that schools operate under in this state. Oddly enough, those teachers who are “satisfied” with their schools most likely understand on many levels that their schools are working well despite the forces that work against them.

Imagine the results of the survey if West Jones Street was more about removing real obstacles rather than creating them.