Support for Education Reform Highest Among New Teachers

A new survey shows that teachers entering the workforce are more open to accepting changes pushed for by education reform advocates, such as linking pay and promotions to performance, than their longer-serving peers. Boston-based nonprofit Teach Plus, which collected the data, reports that for the first time in decades more than half of the teachers currently working have under 10 years of experience — and this could prove to be an unparalleled opportunity to bring real change to American classrooms.

Polling more than 1,000 teachers, both veterans and those who only recently entered the profession, researchers were hoping to determine if there is difference between how the two groups view some of the more controversial issues facing education. On some questions — such as class size — both new and experienced instructors shared the same view. There was agreement among all those polled that districts shouldn't sacrifice smaller classes, even if doing so would allow administrators to bump teacher salaries. They also disagreed with an assertion that longer school days would lead to better academic outcomes for students.

On the areas that have typically been considered most contentious, younger teachers have a much more accepting view of the practices and policies espoused by many education reformers. Specifically, while veteran teachers broadly reject the idea that student achievement metrics should be a part of teacher evaluation, newer teachers were much more open to the idea. The younger teachers went even further, broadly supporting the idea that student growth should play not just a role, but should be a substantial factor in judging instructor effectiveness. While veteran teachers rejected the idea outright, those with ten years of experience or less thought that it should make up at least 20% of the final assessment score.

Teachers who have entered the profession over the past decade are, to some degree, the product of their environment. While they have reservations about certain elements of the standards and accountability movement, they are much more likely to value high standards and measurement of progress against clear goals than their more veteran peers. We see this in their responses to questions about their schools, their classrooms, and their preparation programs.

Those who have entered the profession recently were even open to reform of what has long been considered the teaching profession's sacred cow: the tenure system. While experienced teachers overwhelmingly supported keeping tenure unchanged, less experienced instructors saw it as a good area of compromise and were willing to consider reforming it in exchange for higher pay.

Finally, we asked teachers if they would be willing to replace the current compensation and tenure systems with a performance-based system with much higher starting and top salaries. Here, New Majority teachers are far more supportive of a change to the status quo; specifically, 42 percent of New Majority teachers and just 15 percent of veteran teachers support such a change.

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