Teacher-sponsored poll results less rosy than districts

It was dueling survey time at the Forest Grove School Board meeting Monday night.

One, completed this fall by district staff and asking how parents, students and staff like their schools, largely drew praise from participants.

In the other, conducted last spring by the local teachers’ union, educators voiced widespread disappointment with the way things were going.

More than half of the teachers who responded to a survey measuring morale in their ranks said their input was not valued or acted upon by district officials.

And 52 percent of the 244 respondents — representing 80 percent of the district’s teaching staff — said they were not encouraged to provide input to the district about how to assess student performance, while 38 percent said they were encouraged to do so.

Jeff Matsumoto, president of the local teachers’ union, the Forest Grove Education Association, told the board that in addition to building-specific surveys, the union had been looking for “a broader perspective” from its entire membership when it came up with survey questions.

“We certainly have been feeling what many districts are going through ... the specific impact of budgets and workload increases,” said Matsumoto.

There were three possible responses to each of the questions. Teachers could indicate that they agreed, disagreed or felt neutral about a specific issue.

Teacher survey

results ‘abysmal’

The survey also asked teachers the following:

n Whether they felt their professional discretion was valued (50 percent agreed that they were allowed to adapt their teaching methods to meet the needs of individual students, while 36 percent disagreed);

n Whether they felt supported in their jobs by building and central office administrators (47 percent said they did not have the resources to effectively teach their students, while 39 percent said they did);

n Whether their school has a cohesive staff and a positive working relationship with building administrators (64 percent felt their opinions were valued by their principal and 58 percent said the faculty at their school is a cohesive group with similar educational philosophies); and

n Whether they agreed with the district’s educational vision (62 percent responded that they did not support the “proficiency based and testing focused” philosophy of the district, and 58 percent said the district does not consider multiple methods of achieving successful academic outcomes).

“This shows there’s an opportunity for the administration and our members to work together to bring about more positive results,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for us to have conversations.”

Feeling supported by the district administration was another area Matsumoto addressed.

In recent years, he said, teachers have sometimes felt unsupported by community members and the district in their efforts to educate students. Because of that, Matsumoto noted, “oftentimes (teachers) feel reluctant to speak out,” he said.

Fred Marble expressed displeasure with the survey responses.

“To me this is an abysmal situation,” said Marble, the longest-term member of the board. “The scores are extremely low but not unexpected.”

According to the survey, Marble said, “Forest Grove does not look like a fun place to work” for teachers. “This is a survey I want to take down to Salem and show (legislators) what they’re doing to our teachers,” he added in a reference to budget cutting at the state level.

‘Climate’ survey more positive

Assistant Superintendent John O’Neill brought the board results of a district-led “school climate” survey that — in general — communicated much rosier results.

“Our parents have strong feelings about the schools and the teachers,” said O’Neill. Ninety-five percent of parents agreed that their students like the school they attend, he said.

And, while only 53 percent of students indicated their classmates treat one another well at their school, 87 percent said they felt welcome on campus.

Ninety-nine percent of teachers who answered the survey indicated they challenge all their students academically to meet their full potential. Seventy-nine percent said that if they lived in the same attendance area as the school where they work they’d send their own children there.

Out of 3,833 students, more than 2,500 students responded.

Just over half of the district’s teachers, or 161, responded to the district-level survey.

The second survey drew more smiles from the board than the first.

“I like the results of this survey a lot more than the ones Jeff presented,” said board vice chairman John Hayes. “I think we have some work to do to make sure we’re including the teachers and considering their opinions.”

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