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Nationwide survey of teacher collaboration and retention has major implications for policymakers

New York, NY, December 9, 2009. Effective teaching is the key to student achievement, but how do you keep good teachers in the classroom and best support them in order to provide the highest quality education for all students? Answers provided through a groundbreaking Teachers Network survey, funded by the Ford Foundation, show that quality teaching is more the result of opportunities that teachers are given to collaborate.

Specifically, some preliminary key findings cited in a research summary of this survey focus in particular on the value of effective teacher networks, professional collaboration, and leadership.

Participation in Teacher Networks. CTQ's analysis shows that teacher participation in professional networks: improves their perceived effectiveness of their teaching practice; advances and elevates their own perceptions of the teaching profession; develops their leadership and advanced professional skills; and, very importantly, increases the likelihood that they plan to remain in teaching positions, even in “high-needs”, “hard-to-staff” schools. In fact, 80% of the teachers surveyed report that have continued as classroom teachers as a result of their network participation, and a remarkable 90% feel that their network participation has improved their teaching.

Collaboration. Teaching effectiveness, as defined by teachers themselves, is a collective activity. Patterns that have emerged in preliminary analyses of Teachers Network survey data include:

  • Eight in ten responding teachers agreed that network participation encouraged them to remain in the classroom; nine in ten reported that it has improved their teaching practice;
  • A majority of respondents (59 percent) also reported that network participation prompted them to develop better relationships with students' parents; and,
  • Colleagues' support was the only school culture factor significantly associated with teachers' planned long-term retention.

Leadership. An aging workforce, the availability of more and more highly paid career options for educated women and minorities, and the increasing mobility of the workforce in general all contribute to teacher shortages in “high-needs” schools. In this study, for example, “movers” cite working conditions—specifically, the opportunity for better teaching assignments, increased collaboration with colleagues, increased time, and an improved climate for teaching and learning—as key components of their decision to change schools. Teacher leaders who report more control over the policies in their schools and autonomy in their jobs are more likely to remain in teaching and to feel invested in their careers and schools.

Ellen Dempsey, Teachers Network's President & CEO, adds that “The Teachers Network survey is especially noteworthy because it sheds new light on how professional collaboration and teacher networks contribute—in extraordinarily cost-effective ways—to increase retention of good teachers.” 

Teachers Network (www.teachersnetwork.org) undertook this major nationwide survey, with a grant from the Ford Foundation. In total, 2,530 surveys were sent out, and 1,210 responses were received—resulting in an astonishing 47.8% return rate, including 175 teachers who had left the classroom, which is exceptional in such a dataset.  A primary purpose of this survey was to better understand the role that participation in teacher leadership networks play in supporting and retaining effective teachers in “high-needs”, urban schools. Follow-up interviews provided a more nuanced view of ways in which opportunities for collaboration and leadership (within and beyond the classroom) can increase teacher efficacy and effectiveness, and improve the retention of the classroom experts that students deserve.

The Center for Teaching Quality (www.teachingquality.org) prepared a preliminary research summary of the findings and implications of the Teachers Network survey. The Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ), headed by Dr. Barnett Berry, states that this survey data suggest strong, statistically significant links between the kinds of collaboration, leadership, and professional development—such as that offered in Teachers Network communities—and improved teacher efficacy and retention, especially in the context of “high-needs” schools. Overall, survey findings suggest that serious “turnaround” initiatives should include these approaches such as those used by Teachers Network—for teachers in order to not only reform, but transform, “high-needs” schools and districts, and to advance and elevate the teaching profession.

Findings from the Teachers Network survey—along with a companion documentary-video entitled "Teachers on Teaching,” narrated by actor Cynthia Nixon, featuring the direct voices of teachers from throughout the nation—have just debuted on Teachers Network's award-winning website, at: www.teachersnetwork.org/keepinggoodteachers.


About Teachers Network [www.teachersnetwork.org]. Teachers Network is a non-profit organization—by teachers, for teachers—with a 29-year track record of success, dedicated to improving student learning in public schools, and cutting through teacher isolation. Using the power of an award-winning website, video, and print resources, it leverages the creativity and expertise of a national and international community of outstanding educators. The organization is unique in its focus on the teacher as key to improving student achievement in public schools. Through its leadership, Teachers Network empowers teachers to transform public schools into creative learning communities so every student will succeed and contribute to the public good. Over the years, Teachers Network has directly impacted over 1.5 million teachers and nearly 40 million students.

About the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ) [www.teachingquality.org]. The Center for Teaching Quality is a non-profit organization that seeks to apply research and policy development initiatives in order to improve student learning and advance the teaching profession by cultivating teacher leadership, conducting timely research, and crafting smart policy—all in an effort to ensure that every student in America has a qualified, well-supported and effective teacher.


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