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QLTE Survey Shows Improvement in Teacher Working Conditions

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Atlanta — May 17, 2007

If you want your child to do better in school, then motivated and supported teachers are important. And a new survey of K-12 teacher working conditions in Georgia indicates that respondents see improvements in many areas of teaching, which should benefit students.

More than 7,000 educators in seven school systems across Georgia recently participated for the second time in the Quality Learning and Teaching Environments (QLTE) working conditions survey. The survey, sponsored by BellSouth, was developed to help address the fact that teaching quality is the single most important factor influencing student achievement. But with a 29 percent dropout rate in Georgia’s teaching force after just three years on the job, maintaining teaching quality is a challenge.

With an impressive 84 percent response rate, the majority of educators in Bibb County, Dougherty County, Floyd County, Hall County, Lowndes County, Valdosta City and Vidalia City Schools reported that working conditions had improved since the initial survey two years ago, and gains were reported across all five categories of survey questions. Almost six in 10 educators reported that they had seen improvements in their working conditions since the previous survey.

Preliminary results from working conditions surveys in states around the country indicate a number of key factors, which were measured in the QLTE survey, are critical to increasing student achievement and retaining teachers, according to the Center for Teaching Quality in North Carolina.

The QLTE project consisted of pilot testing a working-conditions survey in several school districts across the state to provide school- and district-specific data on conditions of learning and teaching, and then implementing community-school action plans to address educators’ concerns.

First administered in January 2005, the survey covered five categories: time, facilities and resources, teacher empowerment, school leadership, and professional learning. Items were ranked on a five-point scale.

Here are some specific examples of how the districts responded to their survey results to improve teacher-working conditions and how these actions have positively impacted the results of the latest survey:

  • Time – To give educators more time to collaborate with each other, Hall County implemented monthly early release days; Lowndes County revised the bus schedule; Bibb County changed the physical education schedule; and Dougherty County expanded common planning time. Floyd County formed a partnership with Berry College to help staff computer labs to save valuable classroom instruction time, and also initiated a paperwork reduction taskforce to help alleviate additional hours of work outside the school day. Influenced by these actions, the rating in the time category across these districts increased from 9 percent to 16 percent.
  • Empowerment – Lowndes County High School teachers came up with a unique program, “Where There’s a Wheel There’s a Way” to address student tardiness, discipline and overall performance in a non-punitive manner. Students who met or exceeded performance expectations were entered into a contest for a chance to win a new car. Teachers paid for the car themselves, and Tommy Griner Motors gave them the car at cost. The first car giveaway last May was such a huge success that the teachers have made it an annual event, and the program is now in its second year. The empowerment category in this district increased 5.3 percent since the previous survey.
  • Facilities and Resources – To help their educators work more efficiently, Floyd County and community partners including BellSouth purchased new copy machines for five schools.
  • Leadership – Hall County developed more formal and informal leadership opportunities for their educators through the newly created Teacher Leader Academy.
  • Professional Learning – Lowndes County is better utilizing their internal talent by using district educators to teach professional learning instead of bringing in outside speakers. The professional learning category increased 5.3 percent for this district since the previous survey.

“These improvements show that the school districts took action to make sure their educators’ voices were heard,” said Patricia Paterson, executive director of Teacher Quality Initiatives with the University System of Georgia and director of the QLTE project. “Our school systems and their leadership teams thoroughly analyzed their results from 2005, conducted focus groups, formulated action plans, and came up with solutions to address their teachers’ concerns.”

“The final results have been instrumental in improving our school culture, thus providing a more conducive environment for teachers to teach and students to learn,” said Steve Smith, superintendent of Lowndes County Public Schools and one of the project’s key members. “Our improvement initiatives have resulted in all of our schools making ‘AYP,’ [AYP refers to a series of performance goals that every school, local education agency, and state must achieve within specified timeframes in order to meet the 100-percent proficiency goal established by the Federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001], our system being selected as the ‘Distinguished System’ of the year in the large system category, and one of our middle schools, Hahira Middle School, being selected as a ‘School of Excellence.’”

Some findings have remained consistent during the last 22 months. All systems ranked having effective leadership as the most important factor to keep teaching in their school, with the majority of educators being pleased with their school leadership. All systems also agree that their schools provide a safe environment for teaching and learning, and that they emphasize focused, ongoing professional learning throughout the school year.

The BellSouth QLTE Initiative is a strategy focus of the Georgia Committee on Quality Teaching. Supporting partners include Governor Sonny Perdue, State School Superintendent Kathy Cox, and Chancellor Erroll Davis. Information from teachers who responded to the first survey was influential in Governor Perdue’s creation of new pathways for teachers through the Master Teacher program and in the allocation of new dollars to support training of school principals.

The Initiative is led by a Steering Committee including the following agencies and organizations: BellSouth, University System of Georgia (project co-lead), Georgia Department of Education (project co-lead), State Board of Education, Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, and the Partnership for Reform in Science and Mathematics

The BellSouth QLTE Initiative’s goal is to build premier learning and teaching environments in Georgia’s public schools. For more information, please visit the website at http://www.qlte.org. In addition to detailed information from each participating district, there is also an 18-minute video on the news and resources page that details the project’s success stories.

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