Research News

Tennessee Educator Survey highlights ways leaders can support teachers

The Tennessee Department of Education and the Tennessee Education Research Alliance at Vanderbilt University have released the results from the 2019 Tennessee Educator Survey. More than 45,000 Tennessee educators from 1,815 schools completed this year’s survey, representing 62 percent of the state’s teachers – an all-time high response rate. Survey results point to progress made and maintained in a number of areas, alongside several areas where the state’s educators continue to see a need for improvement.

This is the ninth year that the department, in partnership with Vanderbilt, has surveyed all educators in the state to gather feedback and include teachers’ voices in department strategy, policy decisions and goal setting. The Tennessee Educator Survey aims to measure and evaluate teacher perceptions, and monitor school climates and culture across the state.

“I’ve personally reviewed the comments that were submitted, and we are already using this feedback to drive decisions at the department,” said Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “The increase in response rate from educators on the front lines is critical to helping the department develop and deliver better products and services for educators and students across the state.”

Some of the main takeaways from the 2019 survey include:

  • Seven in 10 teachers with more than three hours of weekly individual planning time agree that this time is sufficient.  Fewer than five in 10 teachers with less than three hours of time agree this time is sufficient.
  • Tennessee teachers feel positively about many aspects of their curricular materials, but still spend substantial time creating or sourcing their own. 70 percent of teachers report spending more than four hours per week creating or sourcing instructional materials.
  • Seven in 10 first-year teachers report having a mentor, but only one in three report that their mentors frequently engage with them in high-leverage coaching activities.
  • The percentage of educators who feel that evaluation is improving student learning has doubled since the annual evaluation began in 2012.
  • Overall employee satisfaction remains high among teachers in Tennessee, with nine in 10 teachers reporting that they are generally satisfied working as a teacher in their school.

The survey also pointed to different perceptions and areas of need between teachers in urban and rural areas of the state. Teachers in urban districts report that they have less individual planning time each week and are also less likely to report that amount of time as sufficient. Urban teachers are also more likely to spend more than 10 hours per week sourcing materials.

These findings continue to show that state, district, and school leaders must work together to support educators, which will align resources and maximize teachers’ effectiveness in the classroom. The department shares school and district survey results directly with local leaders to inform their decision-making, and the department also uses the state-level information to guide the department’s work.

Additionally, the department’s regional offices use the survey results to provide districts with the support to create regional collaborative relationships, differentiated professional development, and evidence-based best practice sharing.

These insights and more can be seen on the 2019 survey website. The online portal allows users to view aggregate statewide teacher and administrator responses, as well as district- and school-specific information, provided they meet or exceed a minimum participation threshold of 45 percent. This year, 1,292 schools and 139 districts met the 45 percent threshold to receive school- and district-level data.

View the 2019 Tennessee Educator Survey results and read the report, Lessons From Our Educators: Tennessee Educator Survey 2019 Results in Context.

The Tennessee Education Research Alliance is a research-policy-practice partnership at Vanderbilt Peabody College of education and human development that is committed to creating an expanding body of knowledge on a set of interrelated areas of focus that directly impact Tennessee’s school improvement strategies.