DENVER — Teachers in Douglas County generally have a higher degree of faith in their school leadership and enjoy greater engagement from parents and communities than do their counterparts in other parts of the state, according to the results of a recent survey.
The findings were part of the Colorado TELL (Teaching, Empowering, Leading & Learning) survey, which is described as an “anonymous statewide survey of licensed, school-based educators to assess teaching conditions at the school, district and state level.”
Some 33,000 Colorado teachers responded to a series of questions in ten separate categories. That number included more than 70 percent of Douglas County teachers, who participated at a rate 16 points higher than the state average of 55 percent.
On all nine measures in the Community Support and Involvement category, Douglas County teachers gave their district higher marks than the statewide average.
More educators in Douglas County felt that the community they serve is supportive of their school (90 percent), that parents are influential decision-makers in their school (92 percent), that their school maintains clear lines of communication with the community (94 percent) and does a good job encouraging parent involvement (94 percent), than did teachers in other districts.
In the School Leadership category too, Douglas County teachers registered higher levels of confidence in many cases than the statewide average.
A higher proportion of Douglas County teachers than their counterparts said that there was an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect in their school (79 percent), that their school leadership communicates clear expectations to students and parents (87 percent), that the faculty and leadership have a shared vision (77 percent) and that the school leadership communicates with the faculty adequately (82 percent).
The TELL results seem to contradict claims from pro-union campaigners that reforms undertaken by the school board in Douglas County have damaged teacher morale or undermined public support for District policies.
One critic of the board, Trisha McCombs recently penned a piece for the Network for Public Education, an anti-charter school group, in which she said the Douglas County school district is “being thrown under the proverbial bus by our current school board,” and expressed concern about what she described as “demoralization of teachers as they are subjected to ambiguous evaluations and bizarre market-based pay programs and a major increase in the number of charter schools.”
“The union-backed propaganda doesn’t match up with the reports being given from most Douglas County schools and classrooms,” counters Ben DeGrow, a Senior Education Policy Analyst at the Independence Institute. “While opponents of the board’s bold and innovative program attempt to paint a picture of a demoralized workforce, many more teachers say they feel supported by their community and by school leaders.”
The school board angered union backers last year when they put an end to the practice of using tax dollars to subsidize the salaries of several union officials. Between 2007 and 2010, union officials collected some $1.2 million in school district funds – despite spending no time in the classroom.
Supporters of the union have also blasted the school board for running a multi-million dollar surplus, and pressured the school board for additional spending.
Douglas County teachers were also more likely than other teachers to say they have sufficient access to appropriate instructional materials and resources (79 percent), instructional technology like computers, printers, software, and internet access (71 percent), and adequate space to work productively (87 percent).
The survey was conducted between February 6 and March 11.