By Diana Matthews
According to an anonymous online survey, a great majority of educators in Columbus County and Whiteville City schools consider their schools to be good places to work and to learn, and 83 percent of teachers in both districts want to continue working where they are now.
The Teacher Working Conditions (TWC) Survey allows teachers and other licensed school-based educators (including administrators, media coordinators and counselors) in the state a chance every two years to register their opinions on class size, time use, facilities, leadership and other factors affecting their job satisfaction.
North Carolina has more than 120,000 public school teachers, and 109,453 took the TWC Survey between March 1 and April 4, yielding a 90.55 percent statewide participation rate.
Local teachers responded at a higher rate. In the Columbus County Schools, 100 percent of the 470 eligible educators responded to the survey; in the Whiteville City Schools 170 out of 173 did so, for a participation rate of 98.27 percent. “We had a few people who were in transition during the time of the survey and couldn’t answer,” said Whiteville superintendent Kenny Garland.
Teachers responded to each item on the survey by choosing “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,” “Disagree” or “Strongly Disagree.” On some survey items, teachers picked amounts of time they spent in specific activities during the week or told what kinds of professional development opportunities they thought they needed. There were additional items for new teachers, asking about the mentoring provided to them by their schools.
In many categories, Columbus County and Whiteville schools’ responses tracked close to each other. For instance, 69.1 percent of county teachers agreed or strongly agreed that, “Class sizes are reasonable such that teachers have the time available to meet the needs of all students,” and 69.9 percent of city teachers agreed with the same statement.
Between 74 and 79 percent of teachers in both systems agreed that, “Teachers have time available to collaborate with colleagues,” and “”The non-instructional time provided for teachers in my school is sufficient.”
On the other hand, county teachers felt less burdened by paperwork, 78.8 percent of them agreeing that, “Efforts are made to minimize the amount of routine paperwork teachers are required to do.” Only 66.1 percent of Whiteville teachers agreed with that statement.
Whiteville teachers were slightly more likely than Columbus County teachers to agree with statements that “Teachers have sufficient access” to appropriate instructional materials, instructional technology and reliable Internet connections. County teachers, however, were slightly more likely to agree that they had sufficient access to office equipment and consumable supplies. Close to 93 percent of teachers both in the county and in the city agreed that, “Teachers have adequate space to work productively.”
In both systems, 91.7 percent agreed with the statement, “The physical environment of classrooms in this school supports teaching and learning.”
Also, 95.2 percent of teachers in both settings agreed that, “This school maintains clear, two-way communication with the community.” County schools teachers agreed 74.9 percent of the time that, “Parents/guardians support teachers, contributing to their success with students.” Whiteville teachers agreed with that statement 69.3 percent of the time. Teachers in both systems agreed almost 90 percent of the time that, “The community we serve is supportive of this school.”
Statewide, only 72 percent agreed that parents and guardians were supportive and contributed to their schools’ success.
Conduct and leadership
Local teachers mostly agreed that, “Students at this school understand expectations for their conduct,” and most perceived administrators as enforcing rules consistently and supporting teachers’ disciplinary efforts.
Among county teachers, 76.7 percent agreed that, “Students at this school follow rules of conduct.” Among city teachers only 58.8 percent agreed. Statewide, 65 percent of teachers agreed with that statement.
County teachers also reported feeling safer in their school environment, 95.7 percent to the city teachers’ 83.4 percent; statewide 89 percent of teachers said they felt safe.
In the category of Teacher Leadership, county teachers agreed more often than city teachers with statements such as “Teachers are recognized as educational experts” or “Teachers are relied upon to make decisions about educational issues.” Yet the two groups responded almost the same to the statement “Teachers have an appropriate level of influence on decision making in this school,” with 77.4 of county and 75.8 percent of city teachers agreeing.
Items relating to School Leadership earned very similar results from county and city teachers. Most agreed that their schools’ leadership teams were effective and supportive toward teachers.
Teachers in both the Columbus County schools and Whiteville City Schools mostly agreed that their schools provided adequate resources and opportunities for professional development. Teachers in both districts agreed in high numbers that they and their colleagues work together “to develop and align instructional practices.”
More than 95 percent of participants from both groups agreed that, “Teachers are encouraged to try new things to improve instruction.” Columbus County teachers agreed 97 percent of the time with the statement “Teachers require students to work hard;” 98.8 percent of Whiteville teachers agreed with that statement.
The statement “Teachers believe what is taught will make a difference in students’ lives” earned agreement from 97.6 percent of county teachers and 96.3 percent of city teachers.
The survey asked teachers to agree or disagree with the idea that, “Overall, my school is a good place to work and learn;” 91 percent of Columbus County teachers and 94.6 percent of Whiteville teachers agreed, compared to 87 percent statewide.
Statewide, 81 percent said they plan to “continue teaching at my current school,” while 83 percent of both Columbus County and Whiteville City teachers plan to keep teaching in their current schools.
First in surveying
When the N.C. Professional Teaching Standards Commission introduced the TWC Survey in 2002, North Carolina teachers became the state first in the nation inviting every licensed school-based educator to answer such a survey.
The website ncteachingconditions.org states that, “The power of the Teacher Working Conditions Survey is evidenced by its current replication in more than 16 other states.”
The site also says that, “The results of this survey are one component of the on-going process for collaborative school and district improvement plans.”
The TWC Survey is for charter schools and K-12 schools under the authority of the Department of Public Instruction. Some preschools take part. Licensed personnel who work in a district’s central office do not take the survey. A participant logs onto the survey website with his or her randomly-generated password and specifies whether he or she is a teacher or administrator. He or she then responds to a set of questions appropriate to the indicated job category.