The following are overall observations from survey results.
- A majority of teachers, especially new teachers, are hopeful about the general direction of DPS. The district is not seen as a hopeless urban backwater, but about equal to suburban Jefferson County public schools. Still, confidence in the district is fragile. There have been promises of improvement in the past, many of which failed to be implemented and others of which, teachers believe, have increased burden and responsibility while decreasing respect and teaching time. Instilling and maintaining a sense of renewal and optimism requires action on an agenda of improvements addressing the main factors that effect education quality.
- CSAP tests are universally dreaded (maybe more by teachers than students), but they do provide a benchmark. Even a small improvement in scores will raise morale. They are a part of the new educational environment that has increased public support for schools and provided some additional funds. The states accountability package of tests and additional money should be carefully used to maximize the chances for improving teaching and learning. If improvement can be detected, in particular a nexus between test scores and spending, more help will be forthcoming.
- Teachers get into the profession and remain for the normal reasons people work: compensation, security, friendship with co-workers, etc. But, as a helping profession, teachers are also profoundly motivated by the positive and often immediate feedback they receive (or expect to receive) from children, parents, peers and leaders. Their personal image and aspirations have been under assault from the public, politicians and even allies, such as parents and school management. That is the reason the morale crisis described in this research is so widespread and profound. Addressing the issues requires significant, multi-faceted strategies, some of which are outlined by teachers in their critique and recommendations as presented in this report.
- Younger teachers are a significant asset for the district. They possess greater optimism, higher comfort levels with competition and performance measures and more willingness to trade increased compensation for more difficult tasks.
Many senior teachers are highly dissatisfied and critical of the system, but also resistant to change. They will be a challenge to motivate. A package of money, working conditions and respect will need to be defined and articulated in a fashion that long-time employees will trust.
- Teachers give reasonably positive ratings to DPS para-professionals and principals, but in general rate many factors important to quality education very poorly. Teachers strongest criticism is aimed at central administration and a general lack of leadership. They blame central administration for much of the discontent in the system.
Importantly, when citing why teachers believe their colleagues quit, compensation comes in fourth after failures of administration, poor working conditions such as non-classroom duties and class size, and the stress of dealing with student and parent attitudes. Recruitment and, especially, retention must deal with the range of factors that effect the teaching experience: some monetary, such as bonus and salary increases, others related to job requirements, and still other, less material factors such as respect and verbal support.
Each department of 900 Grant should be evaluated and revamped as appropriate to reduce the tremendous sense of distance and hostility. The improvements under way, along with decentralization strategies, are first steps.
- Recruiting, in general, is a high priority among teachers. Although teachers strongly prefer cooperation over competition and resist performance pay, they do support signing bonuses and hardship pay outside the salary schedule. New teachers are more open to competitive pay strategies than are senior or retired teachers.
- Although an urban setting is an attraction, and an urban district a fulfilling assignment for many would-be teachers, it is also a tough challenge. People should be compensated for their efforts. Higher salaries and signing bonuses can get peoples attention and, perhaps, even get them in the door. Retention will require addressing the working conditions and esteem issues that new and longtime teachers have identified.
Pay and working conditions are twin motivators for attracting and retaining teachers. Signing bonuses and hardship pay are best matched with effective principals, manageable class size, adequate supplies and protected teaching time. New teachers believe forgiveness of student loans, signing bonuses, relocation funds and reduced class size would be the most important incentives.
A bonus incentive package should include a signing bonus of at least $5,000. Yearly bonus pay for working in low-performing schools should be $3,000 to $5,000. Men and senior teachers emphasize higher pay levels. Women and younger teachers are more concerned with working conditions such as class size. New teachers are especially attracted to a turnkey proposal that includes a signing bonus, para-professional, adequate supplies, more planning time, and freedom from non-teaching duties.
- The pension system is seen as a disincentive for recruitment and less valuable than the state system used by other schools. New teachers especially dislike the system. Consider options or a phase out to protect older workers but give new workers choice.
- The Human Resources Department is an important, but poorly rated factor in recruiting new teachers. Significant improvements to new teacher assignments are called for, as are new teacher support programs, such as mentoring.
- Some fixes are easier than others. The lack of supplies, which is a major complaint of both new and senior teachers, should be solved quickly.
- School governance and parental involvement are issues that must regularly be addressed, yet optimum solutions are seldom identified. The CDM system is not seen as effective. It may be time to re-think it. If not improved, most teachers will not miss it.
Final Analysis >>
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