May
1st 2013
TELL-ing Dougco Results: Teacher Satisfaction Mostly High and Growing

Posted under Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & learning & Parents & Principals & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers

I told you yesterday that former Secretary of Education William Bennett is “very impressed” with the major innovative overhaul going on in Douglas County School District. The district has passed 9 months now without a governing union contract, and also continues to defend a groundbreaking private choice program in the courts. A prominent outside expert may be impressed, but what about the district’s teachers?

The latest edition of the Colorado TELL survey is out, in which teachers answer a long series of questions about their schools as a workplace environment. Sponsored by the state’s department of education and several large education interest groups, the third TELL survey was open for teachers across Colorado to answer from February 6 to March 6. In many (but not all) cases, detailed data for each question is broken down at the individual district or school level.

Yesterday Douglas County touted some very favorable news from the fresh results, starting with the fact 71.7 percent of teachers participated in the survey — 17 points higher than the 2013 state average and 22 points higher than the district’s 2011 numbers. Dougco teacher satisfaction significantly outpaced the state average on 75 of 97 data points (lower on only 7 points). Given the major changes happening in the district, it’s also noteworthy that teacher satisfaction significantly improved on 63 of 94 questions since 2011, while noticeably declining on just 3.

Conditions certainly aren’t perfect, and there is some lingering concern about a new evaluation system coming. Yet overall, Dougco teachers’ own answers paint a highly positive district portrait. To further highlight the point, I’ve compiled the results of how many Dougco teachers agreed with 10 key TELL survey questions, comparing them not only with the state average but also with the three other large — and all unionized — metro Denver suburban districts. (In parentheses for each question are Dougco’s results from two years ago.) Judge for yourselves:

1. “Teachers are protected from duties that interfere with their essential role of educating students.”

  • Douglas County: 73% (65%)
  • Cherry Creek: 64%
  • Jefferson County: 63%
  • State Average: 63%
  • Adams 12: 49%

2. “Teachers have sufficient access to appropriate instructional materials and resources.”

  • Douglas County: 79% (71%)
  • Cherry Creek: 76%
  • State Average: 71%
  • Jefferson County: 70%
  • Adams 12: 64%

3. “The community we serve is supportive of this school.”

  • Douglas County: 90% (86%)
  • Cherry Creek: 88%
  • Jefferson County: 85%
  • State Average: 82%
  • Adams 12: 76%

4. “Parents/guardians are influential decision makers in this school.”

  • Douglas County: 91% (91%)
  • Cherry Creek: 78%
  • Jefferson County: 73%
  • State Average: 71%
  • Adams 12: 58%

5. “Administration supports teachers’ efforts to maintain discipline in the classroom.”

  • Douglas County: 88% (82%)
  • Jefferson County: 82%
  • State Average: 79%
  • Cherry Creek: 78%
  • Adams 12: 74%

6. “Teachers are effective leaders in this school.”

  • Douglas County: 88% (82%)
  • Jefferson County: 84%
  • State Average: 82%
  • Adams 12: 80%
  • Cherry Creek: 79%

7. “Teachers are held to high professional standards for delivering instruction.”

  • Douglas County: 95% (90%)
  • Jefferson County: 92%
  • State Average: 90%
  • Cherry Creek: 87%
  • Adams 12: 87%

8. “Professional development provides teachers with the knowledge and skills most needed to teach effectively.”

  • Jefferson County: 73%
  • Douglas County: 72% (68%)
  • Cherry Creek: 71%
  • State Average: 68%
  • Adams 12: 66%

9. “Teachers have autonomy to make decisions about instructional delivery (i.e., pacing, materials, and pedagogy).”

  • Cherry Creek: 87%
  • Douglas County: 86% (84%)
  • State Average: 74%
  • Jefferson County: 67%
  • Adams 12: 63%

10. “Overall, my school is a good place to work and learn.”

  • Jefferson County: 86%
  • Douglas County: 85% (84%)
  • Cherry Creek: 83%
  • State Average: 83%
  • Adams 12: 79%

No doubt there are other significant questions you could examine and compare as well. But I think these results from the post-union, performance-based innovation climate of Douglas County are fairly TELL-ing. Don’t you agree?

22 Comments »

22 Responses to “TELL-ing Dougco Results: Teacher Satisfaction Mostly High and Growing”

  1. Mark on 01 May 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Comparing your post with the story from the Denver Post there seems to be a factual discrepancy, your article says there is a 71.7% participation and the Denver Post says there was only a 54.6% response rate. Who is correct?

  2. Randy on 01 May 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    Okay, teacher’s union, let’s see you refute this! Right on Douglas County! This is why I voted for all the school board members that the union was AGAINST!!

  3. Eddie on 02 May 2013 at 9:11 am #

    Mark, There is no discrepancy. Both numbers are correct. The 71.7% participation rate was for Douglas County teachers. The 54.6% rate was the statewide average.

  4. Mick on 02 May 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    Let me guess who brought down the state wide results, DPS??????

  5. Eddie on 03 May 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    They certainly didn’t help. According to the TELL Colorado website, only 18.4% of Denver teachers participated. And the site doesn’t post any detailed data for districts and schools where the participation rate is less than 50%.

  6. Lynne on 03 May 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    Are you kidding me?? Our district superintendent used a link to Ben DeGrow’s blog, that he pretends is written by a 5 year old?? And this blog is supposed to be a factual, unbiased summary of the TELL results? Our district has sunk to a new low…

  7. Lynn on 03 May 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    Hey Randy,
    Let me get this straight; entrust your children to these teachers for 7 1/2 hours a day but don’t respect their beliefs & opinions? Not very sound thinking in my opinion. Are you against VA benefits as well – I guess anything to put more money in your pocket…

  8. Eddie on 04 May 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Lynne – Everyone has a bias, but facts are facts. If you want to question or challenge the facts, that’s your prerogative. Please list any errors in the above presentation, and they will be corrected. The TELL survey results are at http://tellcolorado.org/results. Have a good day!

  9. Lynne on 04 May 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    I’m concerned out district admin could not be bothered to compile the data themselves. What does this say about those running our district? Are they not capable of looking through the results and reaching their own conclusions? Are you now on the payroll of DCSD?

  10. Brian on 05 May 2013 at 10:06 am #

    Interesting blog post, Ben. Unfortunately, what you have said here about the TELL survey tells only part of the story. In fact, there is very little we can TELL about how Douglas County teachers feel about the district. The vast majority of the questions are about school-level conditions.

    However, a careful look at the data reveals some very interesting information about how DCSD teachers feel about conditions at the district level. For example:

    Q10.1 Teachers who report that their immediate plans are to leave the district or quit teaching altogether:

    DCSD: 22%
    State: 10%

    When looking at how high school teachers answered the same question:

    DCSD: 28.33%
    State: 8%

    Questions related to the DCSD CITE evaluation for teachers, which the district created as a “better” alternative to the state evaluation.

    Q7.1 (h) Teachers feel the evaluation improves teachers’ instructional strategies:

    DCSD: 45%
    State: 61.5%

    Q7.1 (I) Teachers feel that the evaluation is fair at their school:

    DCSD: 64.6%
    State: 79.8%

    Q7.1 (j) The components of the evaluation accurately identify effectiveness:

    DCSD: 36.9%
    State: 61.6%

    This evaluation data is pathetic given DCSD is tying pay to this evaluation. Overall, teachers are still pretty happy with school level leadership. What little district level data we can mine proves that teachers in DCSD are unhappy with district level leadership.

    When you add this to data from the last employee survey, which revealed that 86% of employees believed the district is heading in the wrong direction, we can see that your blog post is more propaganda than truth.

  11. Eddie on 06 May 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    Thanks, Brian.

    You grant that the school-level reports from teachers are overwhelmingly positive, but that a few district-level questions contradict it all. For you and your allies who contend against abundant evidence that the current school board is wreaking great damage on the district, how do you explain the discrepancy?

    If you read the post, you would see that concerns with the evaluation system were mentioned. The new evaluation system certainly could be considered a factor in explaining Q10.1. But how much effect would the phasing out of “extended service severance benefits” have?

    Given all that, the actual turnover of Dougco teachers this year sits at the district’s traditional average and at the average of surrounding school districts. Given the level of change going on in the district, some would see that as positive news, or unremarkable at worst. But it was enough to get you to go to a local TV news station and make a head-scratching complaint: http://coloradopeakpolitics.com/2013/05/06/survey-says-despite-afl-cio-misinformation-campaign-douglas-county-teachers-love-douglas-county-schools/

    Facts are facts. Data are data. Propaganda is in the eye of the beholder.

  12. Lynne on 06 May 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    From your article link above:

    “The survey results, with DougCo teachers reporting high levels of satisfaction with district leadership, severely undercuts the campaign that the AFL-CIO affiliates have been engaged in.”

    Please show me where in the survey DougCo teachers report high levels of satisfaction with district leadership.

  13. Brian on 06 May 2013 at 7:49 pm #

    That’s right, Ben…facts are facts…data are data. What I find interesting is that the ONLY questions in the TELL survey that reveal how teachers feel about conditions at the district level are overwhelmingly negative, but you, of course, choose to ignore that. The number of DCSD teachers who reported that their immediate plans are to leave the district or quit teaching altogether are more than double the state average.

    The district keeps promising another employee survey, but it never seems to materialize. Is that because the last employee survey revealed that 86% of DCSD teachers believed the district was headed in the wrong direction? Of course it is, and there’s no doubt that the district knows what the data from an employee survey would look like and they don’t want to have any part of it.

    The truth of the matter is that you don’t have any idea what morale is like in our school district. The Douglas County School District used to be a place where good teachers wanted to be. That is no longer the case. How sad is it that we have been reduced to making excuses for turnover and bragging about the fact that we are an average district when it comes to turnover? Roughly half of our district’s principal’s have said good-bye since the 2009 school year when the regime was voted in.

    Propaganda is indeed in the eye of the beholder, and people can see right through you. Why don’t you use your considerable influence in our school district to persuade the administration to conduct an independent employee survey so we can put all these “rumors” to rest?

  14. Russ on 07 May 2013 at 11:35 am #

    My school district admin sent me a link to a blog from a pretend five year old?
    Really? If this were my student’s work, I would either give a ‘D’ or reject it for invalid supporting links.
    Why does my district admin think an analysis from a FAKE person is more valid than analysis from the districts’ employees?
    To me, this link is irrefutable proof that the current district admin is playing games.

  15. CH on 07 May 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    You have got to be kidding me, Ben! Every question you reference has to do with teachers’ attitudes about their SCHOOLS and the surrounding community, NOT the District. By in large, teachers are happy with their SCHOOLS at which they work, their SCHOOL administrators and the community around their SCHOOLS.

    Nowhere in any of the results of the TELL survey does it illustrate support for the District, the BOE or Dr. Fagen. In fact, the questions that demonstrated the lowest/worst satisfaction percentages were the only questions that spoke directly to District (read BOE and Fagen) created initiatives. Oh, and don’t forget about the question that showed almost FOUR TIMES more high school teachers in DCSD are wanting to leave the District (or teaching all together) than the State average. Why won’t Fagen acknowledge this? Why won’t you, Mr. DeGrow?

  16. Eddie on 07 May 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    So let me get this straight. (Yes, the 5-year-old thing is tongue in cheek. So what?) These comments raise more questions than provide answers. Taking your observations at face value…

    The district leadership is awful and/or unpopular, but teacher satisfaction with schools is improving anyway? Why the disconnect? Many more teachers say they want to leave DCSD than in other districts, even though the reported numbers of teachers actually leaving is not (see previous comment)? A handful of teachers here express their vocal dissatisfaction with the board for whatever reason they’re free to do so, saying DCSD “used to be a place good teachers wanted to be,” yet reported teacher satisfaction on most measures — as well as outcomes for students — is strong and improving?

    What is it then: Perceptions or personalities trump results for students and classrooms? The policies pursued by this board are popular in the community, and with few exceptions more teachers say their working lives are good.

    Where is the motivation coming from? Is it dissatisfaction with the pilot CITE evaluation system? If so, what specifically are the concerns beyond the new and unfamiliar? Are all the teachers who have worked on this process not representative of the whole? Is the district working to solve the apparent problem?

    Or perhaps at the bottom of the controversy, is it political? Some don’t like the loss of union power, to be sure.

    Please sum it up. Square the circle.

  17. Ed is Watching » Yes, Really! Blended Learning Great Reason to Appreciate AND Celebrate Teachers on 07 May 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    [...] of a new national teacher survey, which contrast with the positive marks Douglas County teachers broadly give their school working environments. Still, one has to explore the possibilities for using blended learning models as successful force [...]

  18. Brian on 07 May 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    Your straw man union argument is so old and tired, Ben. Can’t you think of anything else? I’m sure you think I am upset about the loss of union power, but I don’t have anything to do with that. The union doesn’t have anything to do with any of this. There exists a poor climate and very low morale in DCSD.

    Care to touch on why the district hasn’t conducted an employee survey in two years so that they can put all these “rumors” to rest?

  19. Brian on 07 May 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    Ben: The district leadership is awful and/or unpopular, but teacher satisfaction with schools is improving anyway? Why the disconnect?

    Why is it so hard to believe that teachers can be protective of their school leadership and happy within the confines of their school, but not pleased with the direction of the district? We know that the last employee survey revealed that 86% of teachers did not agree with the direction of the district. The district also conducted a listening tour following the release of that survey. They know there is a morale problem-one that existed before the evaluation and the end of a CBA.

    Ben: Many more teachers say they want to leave DCSD than in other districts, even though the reported numbers of teachers actually leaving is not (see previous comment)?

    As someone who apparently couldn’t get a job as a teacher, I think you understand that there are only so many jobs available. Also, teachers who have more than say, eight years, would take a pretty significant financial hit to go elsewhere. Finally, why should they have to leave? These are the people who built this district. Many of them have confidence that pro public school candidates will win the elections in November. I share in their confidence.

    Ben: A handful of teachers here express their vocal dissatisfaction with the board for whatever reason they’re free to do so, saying DCSD “used to be a place good teachers wanted to be,” yet reported teacher satisfaction on most measures — as well as outcomes for students — is strong and improving?

    Where is the evidence that outcomes are improving for students? I haven’t seen it. In fact, the evidence that is starting to come suggests just the opposite. I already addressed the teacher satisfaction thing.

    Ben: Where is the motivation coming from? Is it dissatisfaction with the pilot CITE evaluation system? If so, what specifically are the concerns beyond the new and unfamiliar? Are all the teachers who have worked on this process not representative of the whole? Is the district working to solve the apparent problem?

    Ah…the old “teachers are afraid of change” comment. As I already said, the last employee survey revealed a serious morale problem before the evaluation was rolled out and before the end of the CBA. And no, the district is not working to solve the problem.

    Once again, Ben, you really have no idea what you’re talking about, but there’s a way to solve that. Let’s have an independent company survey employees about the district leadership and the Board of Education specifically. What do you think? We can put all the “rumors” to rest and get to the truth. I would love that, would you?

  20. Eddie on 08 May 2013 at 9:24 am #

    I was hoping you could tell readers what’s the cause of the dreadful employee morale you posit. If the Board’s actions are resulting in teacher reports of better conditions at the school level, and it’s not a concern about the union, then please enlighten the conversation.

    Let’s indulge. Imagine that the district not only duplicated the state TELL survey at the local level but also asked the question of those who indicated dissatisfaction, “Why are you unhappy in your job?” What specifically would most of those employees say the Board has done to make things miserable? You haven’t explained the disconnect. I’d be happy to see a genuinely independent survey with genuinely unbiased questions drill down to get to answers the TELL survey didn’t. But since I don’t have the resources to pull that off, I’d first be interested to hear the informed opinions of someone who claims broad knowledge of more than 3,000 teacher opinions district-wide.

    You also respond: “Where is the evidence that outcomes are improving for students? I haven’t seen it. In fact, the evidence that is starting to come suggests just the opposite.” You might want to back that up, since dropout and remediation rates are decreasing, access to concurrent enrollment options is growing, and TCAP achievement scores remain strong and steady. https://eboardsecure.dcsdk12.org/attachments/49397bf6-b1d2-4662-827e-acd745028877.pdf

    It’s certainly your prerogative to want the school board to fail for political reasons, but shouldn’t you at least be happy for the students as Dougco keeps striving for better results?

  21. Brian on 09 May 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    Ben…you seem to be having some trouble comprehending what I have said in these posts. The last independent survey conducted in our district showed 86% of teachers did not agree with the direction of the Douglas County school district. That survey was conducted a year and a half ago, before this disaster of an evaluation the district rolled out was created. The last parent survey, which was a year ago, showed the vast majority of parents do not agree with the direction of the school district. It’s pretty clear why the district isn’t surveying parents or teachers anymore.

    These are not my perceptions, they are data from independent surveys. Now…why is that so hard for you to understand?

  22. Ed is Watching » Disputed Dougco Evaluations? Don’t Turn Up the Heat, Just Share All the Facts on 24 May 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    [...] any of the district’s more than 40 neighborhood elementary schools. Survey results that were overwhelmingly positive. Why is [...]

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