Listening to Teachers

Gail L. Sunderman
September 1, 2004

TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ............................................................................................. 2
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY .............................................................................................. 3
Key Findings............................................................................................................... 3
Recommendations....................................................................................................... 4
INTRODUCTION............................................................................................................. 6
THE NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND THEORY OF ACTION....................................... 10
DESIGN OF STUDY...................................................................................................... 12
Background on Districts ........................................................................................... 13
Sampling ................................................................................................................... 15
Student Characteristics.............................................................................................. 16
Teacher Characteristics............................................................................................. 18
Data Collection and Analysis.................................................................................... 18
Generalizability of Findings ..................................................................................... 19
RESULTS OF THE TEACHERS? VOICE SURVEY ................................................ 20
I. Teacher Views of their Schools ................................................................................. 20
Standards for Student Achievement.......................................................................... 20
Curriculum ................................................................................................................ 21
Achievement-oriented Culture.................................................................................. 22
Summary ................................................................................................................... 25
II. General Impressions and Knowledge of NCLB ...................................................... 26
Summary ................................................................................................................... 28
III. Accountability, Incentives and Sanctions .............................................................. 29
NCLB Sanctions ....................................................................................................... 29
Improving School Performance ................................................................................ 31
Effect of NCLB Accountability on Curriculum and Instruction .............................. 33
Summary ................................................................................................................... 35
IV. Changes in Curriculum and Instruction ................................................................ 36
Summary ................................................................................................................... 37
V. What Teachers Need................................................................................................ 38
Summary ................................................................................................................... 42
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS.......................................................... 43
Recommendations..................................................................................................... 43
REFERENCES................................................................................................................ 46
2
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors of this report are grateful to numerous individuals for their assistance with
this study. Special thanks go to John Yun at the University of California, Santa Barbara
for his assistance with designing the survey and conducting the teacher focus groups in
California. We are very grateful for our research assistants and volunteers, Tim Bazzle,
Hannah Chang, Mary Doyle, Maya Harris, Sam Hwang, Joy Karugu, and Vanara Taing
who provided countless hours entering data, checking for errors, making tables, and
providing numerous other forms of research assistance. Erica Frankenburg and
Chungmei Lee provided enormously useful comments on various drafts of the report.
Thanks also go to our extraordinary administrative team, including Marilyn Byrne,
Laurent Heller, Lori Kelley, Christina Tobias-Nahi, Sofia Jarrin-Thomas, Jerry Monde,
and Jennifer Blatz for their valuable assistance with this report. We are grateful for the
very useful feedback provided by teachers in California, Mesa, and Baltimore, including
Sissy Bryant, Carolyn Cobb, Tajah Gross, and Flo Valentine in Baltimore. We thank
district administrators and school leaders in Fresno and Richmond for helping administer
the survey. Finally, we could not have completed this survey without the wonderful
cooperation of the teachers in both Fresno and Richmond who gave willingly of their
time to complete our survey. Of course, the views and opinions expressed in this report
are solely those of the authors.
3
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
No Child Left Behind: The Teachers? Voice survey grew out of our national study on the
No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), which is examining many aspects of NCLB
implementation in six states and eleven school districts. Since there is much in NCLB
that is aimed at teachers, we wanted to know what teachers think about the law and how
they, and their schools, are responding to its strategies for change.
Thanks to the cooperation of two urban school districts in Fresno, California and
Richmond, Virginia, we obtained survey responses from two groups of teachers on
opposite ends of the country. These two school districts serve many low-income and
minority students, with one serving mostly Latino students and the other mostly African-
American students, and each operates within a very different state policy and reform
context. The response rate of the teachers to our survey was 77.4%. The survey was
administered in May-June 2004.
Key Findings
1. Teachers have a thoughtful and nuanced view of reform that is quite consistent
across districts and across teachers in both schools that are doing well and those
that have been identified as in need of improvement under NCLB.
2. Teachers believed their schools have high standards and that the curriculum in
their school was of high quality and linked to academic standards. They believed
teachers in their schools were working hard to provide quality instruction, were
dedicated to improving student achievement, and were accepting of accountability
if it was based on a system that fairly measured instructional performance. They
think their schools can improve more.
3. They did not believe that identifying schools that had not made adequate yearly
progress would lead to school improvement. They viewed the transfer option
quite negatively but were somewhat more positive about the potential of
supplemental educational services to improve schools. Teachers strongly
believed that the NCLB sanctions would unfairly reward and punish teachers.
4. Many of the teachers in schools that were identified as needing improvement do
not plan to be teaching in them five years in the future. Teachers also believed
that the NCLB sanctions would cause teachers to transfer out of schools not
making adequate progress. These results suggest that there is a very serious
problem in getting teachers to make a long-term commitment to teach in poorly
performing schools and that designating schools as ?in need of improvement?
under NCLB may make things worse.
5. Teachers confirm that the NCLB accountability system is influencing the
instructional and curricular practices of teachers, but it is producing unintended
4
and possibly negative consequences. They reported that, in response to NCLB
accountability, they ignored important aspects of the curriculum, de-emphasized
or neglected untested topics, and focused instruction on the tested subjects,
probably excessively. Teachers rejected the idea that the NCLB testing
requirements would focus teacher?s instruction or improve the curriculum.
6. Teachers reported that reform was underway prior to NCLB, and in some cases
NCLB disrupted these reform efforts. There is evidence from the survey to
support the idea of ?policy churn,? that is, schools in high-poverty districts, and
particularly low-performing schools, are continually changing their educational
programs in response to calls for reform.
7. Teachers provide some insightful thoughts about what they need to meet high
standards and improve student performance:| They need more resources, and they had highly nuanced views of
what resources matter. In particular, teachers desired more money
for curricular and instructional materials aligned with state
standards.| They favored additional time to collaborate with other teachers
more than increased professional development.| They voiced support for the importance of small classes.| They want experienced administrators in their schools, to work
with experienced teachers, and more involvement of parents. They
were not opposed to removing ineffective teachers.| They believed public recognition and rewards for improving
student performance were more effective than sanctions for poor
performance.
Recommendations
The teacher responses to the survey questions, and the highly consistent information we
have received in our work on our long-term, six state study suggest the following priority
issues for consideration as NCLB continues to evolve.
1. Schools need additional resources, but not just more money. Current resources
could be reallocated, particularly the 20% set-aside for supplemental educational
services and transfers, and better focused on curricular and instructional materials
tied to state standards and on developing coherent instructional programs.
5
2. There is an urgent need for strong, committed, long-term leaders in poorly
performing schools. There is nothing in NCLB to attract administrators to such
schools, which should become a key goal in reforming schools and districts.
3. To mitigate the high turnover and low retention of teachers in high-poverty
schools serving large numbers of minority students, NCLB should provide
funding for improving the working conditions in these schools and additional
support for helping teachers with out-of-school problems. NCLB should facilitate
teachers? desire for more time for school staffs to work together to improve
learning by funding the time for these efforts.
4. Accountability should be continued but refocused in critical ways. Standardized
testing should be only one part of assessing school performance and should
measure not only existing achievement levels but also the contribution a school
makes to improving student achievement. Accountability should continue rather
than disrupt good reform programs already underway and should reinforce rather
than take time away from the basic activities of teaching and learning.
While opinion surveys have limits as a source of policy guidance, teachers? views are
very important to the success of any educational reform, including NCLB. These survey
responses deserve serious consideration given their thoughtfulness, the complexity of
opinions expressed, the close divisions on some issues, and the fact that the teachers
whose schools are succeeding under the law report most of the same things that the
teachers in the less successful schools say. These opinions cannot be interpreted as
defensive justifications of failure. The fact that teachers from two very different cities in
two very different states that are three thousand miles apart often agree is noteworthy.
We hope that this report will help teachers to be heard as the debate over the law?s future
continues.
6
INTRODUCTION
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is largely built on assumptions about ways to
change teachers? behavior that were based on hunches or ideology rather than work with
teachers or education experts. Everyone who has been a teacher knows that once the
classroom door is closed what happens is not about theory but about interactions between
students and teacher that are not easy to control from far away. Like all professionals,
teachers desire autonomy and respect in their work. No one could criticize the goals of
NCLB, which aims to have all groups of students move steadily towards a high level of
achievement and promises to hold all schools responsible for providing all children a
good education. The requirement that all teachers in poor schools be highly qualified is
also excellent.
The criticisms of NCLB concern the way success is defined and the means chosen to try
to accomplish it. NCLB judges the success of schools by mathematics and reading scores
and mandates that they rise rapidly, largely through external pressure. The gains required
by the law far exceed those documented for any major educational reform program. The
original intent of the law was also to add substantial resources to schools, and indeed
there was a large increase in federal appropriations in the first year. However, the level
of federal dollars projected for the second and third year were not provided and the state
and local effects of the recession meant that many districts and schools actually
experienced cuts in total resources. Even so, the requirements for large educational gains
remained.
The NCLB policies assume that teachers can be led to perform better if they are made
much more accountable for test score gains, and that sanctions directed at their schools
and, eventually, at them, will motivate teachers to improve their instruction. Specified
targets of test score gains in certain grade levels become all-important for a school under
the law, since a school can eventually be severely sanctioned or closed if it fails to meet
such goals. Nothing else that teachers do counts as a measure of success under NCLB,
except the test score gains of their students in two subjects. Schools and school districts
cannot alter the standards, which are set by state governments, or the level of gains
needed each year for every subgroup of students.
These policies reflect the continuation and intensification of the approach of test-driven
reform that began in the South and became a national force with the Reagan
Administration?s l983 report, A Nation at Risk. This approach led almost all states to
impose state achievement goals and tests. It was also the basis, in a much milder form,
for the Clinton Administration?s 1994 reform of Title I. The approach represents a
judgment that teachers have not focused enough on mathematics and reading in ways that
produce progress that can be measured by a state?s standardized tests, and that teachers
will focus and teach more effectively under intense, focused pressure on their school. If
there is not substantial progress each year for every group of students, the school is
labeled as ?needing improvement,? and the parents are notified that they can transfer their
child to other schools or use federal NCLB monies for purchasing supplemental
7
educational services provided outside the regular school day. Schools ?needing
improvement? are often branded as ?failing schools? in the local press, putting strong
pressure on faculty and administrators. The law says that after several years of not
meeting increasingly more difficult goals the school can be dissolved, turned into a
charter school, or be subjected to other sanctions. It assumes that competition with
private providers will produce better performance by the teachers in the sanctioned
schools.
The law requires that all schools receiving NCLB aid must have ?highly qualified?
teachers for their students. This goal was a response to increasingly clear evidence that
low-income students had the least prepared and experienced teachers, and that the quality
of teachers substantially impacts student achievement. Research suggests that both the
knowledge and the experience of teachers matter, and that a combination of
characteristics best define a highly qualified teacher. This part of the law assumed that
school districts were not trying hard enough to obtain such teachers for their
impoverished schools and that they could rapidly remedy this problem if required to by
federal law. The law also requires that paraprofessionals have at least an Associate?s
degree, something that many of the paraprofessionals, including those who speak the
languages of immigrant children and their parents, do not have.
Three years after NCLB passed, with a national controversy raging over the law, we need
to know what teachers think about it and how they and their schools are responding to the
law?s pressures. As we move toward implementation of more severe sanctions, it is very
important to have evidence from the field on the validity of the law?s basic assumptions
and strategies for change.
Many of the questions in this teacher survey have emerged from our national study of
NCLB, which covers many aspects of NCLB implementation in six states and eleven
school districts, and from other teacher surveys. Field tests with teachers in other
communities helped frame questions in ways that made sense to teachers about the way
NCLB is working and whether various elements help or hinder educational progress.
Response categories were framed to allow expression of a full range of opinions on the
issues. Thanks to the cooperation of two urban school districts serving many minority
and low-income students in Richmond, Virginia, and Fresno, California, we were able to
find out how two groups of teachers on opposite ends of the country, one serving mostly
African-American students and the other mostly Latino students, think about this law.
It turns out that the teachers? responses from these two urban districts will be of interest
to all sides in the current national debate. Teachers take a much more thoughtful and
nuanced view of the reform than most of the advocates or detractors, who often picture it
with extremely positive or negative views. Both sides in the public debates will find
things to identify with in the teachers? views, which turn out to have a good deal of
consistency among teachers in failing and successful schools in these two quite different
districts.
For the supporters of the law, the good news is that teachers believe that there should be
standards and that the law has had some real benefits. They believe that their schools
8
have coherent educational programs linked to standards, that the schools? goals are clear
to the students, and that the teachers have been working hard to accomplish them, even
before NCLB. Teachers were not completely opposed to sanctions for failure and believe
that ineffective teachers should be removed from schools. They believe that standards
and tests have focused attention on the subjects tested, probably excessively. They are
strongly dedicated to improving student performance and they want to have the parents
more involved in supporting the educational process. There is a strong belief that student
performance can get better.
Critics of the way the law is being administered may emphasize the findings that teachers
feel strongly that they need more funding for their schools to meet the NCLB
requirements and that teachers point to a number of key needs in their schools and
communities besides money. They may also emphasize the findings that teachers say
that the subjects not on the test are being taught less, and that many believe that the
standards are not fair and, in fact, can be seriously counterproductive both for teaching
and for attracting and holding good ?highly qualified? teachers in their schools.
Teachers recognize the impact that sanctions can have, but also tend to believe that
rewards and positive recognition for improvements in outcomes are more powerful. They
feel much more pressure now to do whatever they can to raise test scores. They would
like to have more assistance, texts and materials better related to the standards and more
opportunity to work together with their colleagues on school reform. State and local
officials will be interested to learn that many teachers report that there were substantial
reforms operating in their schools before NCLB and believe that their schools are well
organized, have clear educational goals, and that the faculty is working hard. They see a
very high value in having good educational administrators leading the educational change
efforts in the school, something largely neglected in the reform discussion.
On the very important issue of getting and holding more highly qualified and experienced
teachers in those high poverty schools that are not meeting adequate yearly progress
requirements, the survey provides some important information. Most of the teachers in
those schools do not plan to be teaching in them five years in the future. In one of the
two districts, three-fourths of the teachers in the sanctioned schools plan to be somewhere
else. Teachers also believe that the NCLB sanctions will cause teachers to transfer out of
schools not making adequate progress. Overall, the survey suggests that there is a very
serious problem in getting teachers to make a long-term commitment to such schools and
that the NCLB designations of schools failing to make adequate yearly progress may
make things worse.
Obviously, opinion surveys have limits as a source of policy guidance, but teachers?
views are very important to the success of any educational reform plan. Among the
reasons these responses deserve credibility is their thoughtfulness, the complexity of
opinions expressed, the close divisions on some issues, and the fact that the teachers
whose schools are succeeding under the law report most of the same things that the
teachers in the less successful schools say. These opinions cannot be interpreted as
defensive justifications of failure. The fact that teachers from two very different cities in
9
two very different states that are three thousand miles apart often agree is another check
on the data. These survey responses deserve serious consideration.
Many teachers added written comments, expressing their deep concern over the issues,
the work they are trying to do, and the impact on their students of the education reforms.
Some said that they were very glad teachers were being asked about the policy. One of
the teachers wrote:
Teachers in low-performing schools work harder than the government
can imagine! We are blamed for everything that causes a child to fail,
and yet there is no accountability on the part of the student or the
parent?
Low performing schools make progress, and yet nothing is good
enough. When we say that we deal with absenteeism, verbal student
abuse, etc., we are told these are excuses?
We are dedicated people who have been treated unfairly?
Pay attention, NCLB, to the good things that are done by teachers.
Teachers speak with many voices and share many of the goals of the No Child
Left Behind Act. We hope that this report will help them to be heard as the debate over
the law?s future continues. In the following section, we describe the theory of
educational change and the assumptions underlying NCLB. In the third section, we
outline the design of the study, explain the survey and sampling methodology, and
describe the districts and teachers that participated in this survey. The fourth section
presents various aspects of the findings of the survey. In the final section of this report,
we offer our reflections on the implications of the teachers? beliefs and experiences under
the law for the creation of more effective school reform.
10
THE NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND THEORY OF ACTION
NCLB codified into federal law a theory of educational change that assumes external
accountability and the imposition of sanctions will force schools to improve and motivate
teachers to improve their instructional practices, resulting in improved student
performance. NCLB reorients educational policy and practice by subjecting all schools
to the same yearly progress goals, even though state standards and tests vary, and by
adopting market-based theories of reform as remedies for poorly performing schools.
While the shift to performance-based accountability has been underway in many states
and districts primarily as a means of improving student performance and dealing with
failing schools, there is limited knowledge about the effects of these policies or how they
might work in practice.
Two of the primary assumptions underlying NCLB are that (1) external accountability
and the imposition of sanctions will force schools to improve and motivate teachers to
change their instructional practice, resulting in better student performance; and (2) that
market mechanisms will lead to school improvement. Under NCLB, schools that do not
meet the state?s proficiency goals on a standardized test in reading and math for two
consecutive years are identified as needing improvement. To make adequate yearly
progress (AYP), schools must improve the proficiency rates of different subgroups of
students. Since NCLB establishes a single performance standard for all students, schools
with lower-scoring students will have to make substantially larger gains to make AYP
than schools with higher performing students (J. Kim & G. L. Sunderman, 2004b). In
other words, since the performance standards are the same for all students regardless of
where they start, those who are further behind have further to go to meet the cut-off
scores.
A key mechanism of the NCLB accountability system is to identify schools that do not
make adequate yearly progress as ?in need of improvement.? This identification is based
on students reaching a state defined level of proficiency in reading and math on state
tests. This method has been called a ?status model? of measuring student achievement
since it relies on the percentage of students who score at the proficient level or higher on
statewide reading and math tests. A number of researchers have argued that this method
fails to acknowledge achievement gains of students who are below proficient or to give
credit for improving student achievement over time (Linn, Baker, & Betebenner, 2002).
They have argued that it sets unrealistically high expectations and requires an
unrealistically rapid rate of improvement, which many fear will result in almost all
schools failing to make adequate yearly progress (Lee, 2004, April 7; Linn, 2003). While
subgroup accountability has the potential to focus attention on the performance of
different groups of students, this provision penalizes schools that are diverse and serve
large numbers of minority and low-income students since they are required to meet more
achievement targets than more affluent and homogenous schools (J. Kim & G.
Sunderman, 2004; Novak, 2003, December).
Once schools are identified for improvement, they are subject to a series of sanctions.
These sanctions were shaped by theories of markets and privatization. For schools that
11
are in year one or year two of school improvement, there were two required sanctions.
Schools in their first year of school improvement are required to offer all students the
option to transfer to another, higher performing school. Students in schools that are in
their second year of school improvement are eligible for supplemental educational
services. These, by definition in the law, are opportunities for additional academic
instruction that are provided outside the regular school day by private, non-profit, or
public organizations. Both the transfer option and supplemental educational services are
based on the assumption that competition will expand the educational opportunities of
students and create incentives for low-performing schools to improve their instructional
program.
This study evaluates the efficacy of the law?s theory of change by asking teachers how
they perceived the law and its effects on their schools, their instructional practice, and the
curriculum. NCLB and other standards-based reform measures emphasize accountability
as a tool of educational change and rely on the response of the key agents of change,
teachers, to this new framework of incentives. As improved student achievement is
ultimately linked to the actions of these teachers, it is important to gain insight into their
responses to NCLB. By comparing the responses of teachers in schools subjected to the
law?s sanctions with those of teachers in schools not yet subjected to the sanctions, we
can evaluate the impact of the law?s reform interventions.
The No Child Left Behind: The Teachers? Voice survey was designed to test the theory
that identifying schools for improvement and requiring these schools to offer choice and
supplemental educational services will improve the quality of the school?s instructional
program and the quality of teacher?s instructional practice. The design of the survey was
based on the theory that improvements to the instructional program and instructional
practice could be observed through increased instructional program coherence, increased
collective accountability, and/or improved instructional practice (D. M. Koretz &
Hamilton, 2003, October; Ladd & Fiske, 2003; Newman, Smith, Allensworth, & Bryk,
2001; Wong, Sunderman, & Lee, 1997). The survey focused on whether teachers had
observed positive changes in such areas at the school and classroom level. The study
concentrated on teachers in urban settings since this is where the NCLB sanctions have
been concentrated.
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DESIGN OF STUDY
The No Child Left Behind: The Teachers? Voice survey was developed by the research
staff of The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, using items modified from
previously conducted teacher surveys and newly-designed items that were field tested in
three states (Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy, 2001; Consortium on Chicago
School Research, 2003; D. Koretz, Barron, Mitchell, & Stecher, 1996; D. M. Koretz &
Hamilton, 2003, October; Ladd & Fiske, 2003; Mintrop, 2004; National Staff
Development Council, 2003; Pedulla et al., 2003). It consists of over one hundred
individual response items designed to collect data regarding both the reactions of teachers
to the NCLB accountability system and their opinions on whether the NCLB
accountability mechanisms are likely to lead to school improvement.
The survey addressed the following topics:| Knowledge of NCLB and sources of information on the law| Perceived effect of the NCLB sanctions and AYP requirements| Perceived changes in instruction activities and curricular focus| Perceptions of the school?s instructional program| Classroom activities related to state-mandated tests| Perceived conditions needed for school improvement
The survey employed several types of items related to NCLB. A five-point Likert
response scale ranging from ?Strongly Disagree? to ?Strongly Agree? was used for most
items to assess the depth of teachers? opinions. Teachers were asked to choose among
several fixed alternatives about their knowledge of NCLB, the source of their knowledge,
and the demographic breakdown and ability level of their students. In addition, they were
asked a combination of fixed-alternative and open-ended questions about their
educational, professional, and personal background, and they were given the option to
add their written comments about the law.
To field test the instrument, two groups of teachers were asked to review the survey, and
a pilot administration of the survey was conducted. The groups of reviewers included
teachers in California and Maryland, and the pilot administration was conducted in two
schools (one identified for improvement and one making adequate progress) in the Mesa
Public Schools (Mesa, Arizona). The 42 teachers who participated in the pilot
administration were asked to complete the survey and encouraged to provide comments
on individual items. These comments, as well as the feedback from the teacher groups
informed the final edits. The survey was administered during May-June 2004 in Fresno,
California and Richmond, Virginia.
13
Background on Districts
This survey and the districts participating in the survey are part of a larger, five-year
study examining the implementation of NCLB. The study, which began in the 2002-03
school year, includes six states (Arizona, California, Illinois, New York, Virginia, and
Georgia) and eleven districts located in the six states. Four major reports from the study
have already been released (J. Kim & G. L. Sunderman, 2004a, 2004b; Sunderman &
Kim, 2004a, 2004b). Districts selected for the larger study enroll large numbers of lowincome
and minority students, the groups of students that NCLB was meant to aid.
We selected the Fresno Unified School District (Fresno) in Fresno, California and
Richmond Public Schools (Richmond) in Richmond, Virginia for the teacher survey
because they represent different regions of the country, one serves predominately Latino
students and the other predominately Black students, and each operates within a very
different state policy and reform context. As shown in Table 1, Fresno enrolls
predominately Latino students (53.7%) while Richmond serves predominately African-
American students (89.5%). Fresno is among the nation?s 50 largest school districts
(Sable & Young, 2003) with an enrollment of 81,408 students. It is the fourth largest
school district in California. Richmond is smaller, with an enrollment of 25,545.
Table 1: Total Enrollment and Racial/Ethnic Characteristic of Students, 2003-04
District Total
Enrollment
% Asian % Black % Latino % Native
Amer.
% White
Fresno 81,408 16.6 11.5 53.7 0.7 17.5
Richmond 25,545 0.6 89.5 2.4 0.1 7.4
Source: California Department of Education, http://data1.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/ (Fresno);
Virginia Department of Education, http://www.pen.k12.va.us/VDOE/Publications/rep_page.htm
(Richmond)
Both districts are heavily impacted by NCLB. Richmond contains just 3% of the schools
in Virginia, but over half of the schools that were identified for improvement under
NCLB (Sunderman & Kim, 2004b). Fresno, which contains 1.1% of the state schools,
had 4.8% of California?s schools identified for improvement. Over 60% of the students
in both districts are low-income students, as determined by their eligibility for a federal
meal subsidy (Table 2). The concentration of poverty in Fresno is the highest among
urban districts in California and one of the highest in the nation (Citizens' Commission on
Civil Rights, 2002). As a result of this poverty, the majority of students in both districts
qualify for Title I services. Fresno has a large population of English language learners
(ELL), and both districts have significant populations of special education students.
Under NCLB, test scores for each of these subgroups must be included in the
determination of whether adequate progress has been made. The graduation rate in
Fresno is 55.8%, based on the average success of a group of students moving from grade
9 through to graduation (Orfield, Losen, Wald, & Swanson, 2004). As shown in Table 3,
the student/teacher ratio is 20.6 to 1 in Fresno and 11.1 to 1 in Richmond.
14
Table 2: Characteristics of Students in Fresno and Richmond, 2002-03
District
% Low-
Income*
% Eng. Lang.
Learners
% Special
Education
Graduation
Rate (%)**
Fresno 68.1 31.9 10.4 55.8
Richmond 62.7 N/A 16.1 N/A
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core Data,
http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/districtsearch/
*We defined ?low-income? as the percentage of students receiving free- and reduced-priced lunch. Data
on lunch subsidies was obtained from State data files obtained from the California Educational
Demographics Office (http://data1.cde.ca.gov/dataquest) and the Virginia Office of Information
Technology (www.pen.k12.va.us/VDOE/Publications/rep_page.htm). Calculations are our own.
**The Civil Rights Project (Orfield et al., 2004).
Table 3: Number of Classroom Teachers and Student/Teacher Ratio, 2002-03
District
Classroom
Teachers FTE
Student/Teacher
Ratio
Fresno 3,938.30 20.6
Richmond 2,360.50 11.1
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core Data,
http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/districtsearch/
These districts operate in very different policy and reform contexts. Virginia has been
cited as a leader in adopting state-mandated standards and testing requirements (Ravitch,
2002). Before NCLB, Virginia had developed a coherent set of accountability policies,
and its governor, the State Board of Education, and the State Education Agency were
committed to implementing the state accountability plan. The state first started testing
students on the Standards of Learning in 1998. Since the state?s standards and
assessments met all the 1994 Title I requirements, and these requirements closely
mirrored those of NCLB, state policymakers were able to focus their attention on plans
for improving reading instruction statewide and building the instructional capacity of the
small number of low-performing schools identified for improvement under NCLB. In
California, NCLB added considerable uncertainty to the accountability system.
California has experienced many contentious political battles since the 1970?s among
policymakers over the adoption of a statewide testing and accountability system (Kirst,
2002; Citizens? Commission on Civil Rights, 2002). Throughout this period, changes in
political leadership, shifts in the political winds, or the collapse of political coalitions led
the state to dismantle earlier reforms and assessments or layer on new ones (Kirst, 2002).
The most recent reform, adopted in 1999, has the backing of state policymakers and
business but only lukewarm support from local educators and parents. Even these and
related reforms have been changed or reversed since they were first adopted. The state
initiative to reduce class size, for example, was reversed by the state budget crisis, and
bilingual education was limited to one year by referendum.
Both districts had accountability and reform plans in place prior to NCLB. Fresno had
developed its own measures of accountability in order to comply with the 1994 Title I
requirements. The district designed an accountability system that used a local formula to
determine whether schools met performance goals, and whether schools were in need of
program improvement. The Fresno model of accountability used multiple measures to
15
show school progress, including test scores, grades, teachers? ratings on standards, and a
writing sample (Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights, 2002), whereas the state system
introduced in 1999 used a single measure based only on test scores. Once NCLB was
passed, Fresno had to drop its own multiple measures model in favor of the state system
since NCLB only values gains on state reading and mathematics tests. Fresno had also
developed its own content and performance standards in the early 1990s. These were
dropped when the state developed state level standards in the late 1990s because the
district did not want two separate sets of standards.
Richmond follows the state accountability system, which issues school accreditation
ratings based on student achievement on the Standards of Learning (SOL) and other tests
in English, history/social studies, mathematics and science. To assist schools not meeting
the state standards, Richmond developed a district review process that monitors schools
to make sure they are on track for improvement. There are also two state programs that
monitor schools not meeting the state accreditation standards by visiting schools to
review instruction, climate, and other factors affecting student achievement. There is
considerable disconnect and overlap between the state and district monitoring programs,
according to district administrators.1 The district has put a number of programs in place
to help students improve, including extended day programs and after-school and inschool
tutoring programs. It has also made changes in its curriculum and instructional
program at all levels of the school system (elementary, middle, and high school). There
are special programs, for example, to raise reading and math achievement. Richmond
adopted a uniform reading curriculum, lengthened the reading period to two hours a day,
and adopted direct instruction in elementary schools. Middle schools use a ninety-minute
reading block, and both middle and high schools use the state?s Algebra Readiness
program.
Sampling
To ensure an adequate sample of schools that included both improvement and adequate
progress schools and to minimize the burden on the districts, 30 schools in Fresno and 25
schools in Richmond were included in the sample. Since a central goal of the data
collection process was to compare teacher reactions to the law in schools that had been
identified as needing improvement (improvement schools) with those making adequate
progress (adequate progress schools) under the NCLB accountability framework,
purposeful decisions regarding the sampling framework were combined with random
sampling procedures. Our goal was to select a final sample of schools that included 20
improvement schools in Fresno, 15 improvement schools in Richmond, and 10 schools in
each district that were making adequate progress.
Secondary schools and schools serving special populations of students were excluded
from the pool of eligible schools. Secondary schools were excluded because NCLB
focuses its testing requirements on grades 3-8. After these exclusions, 80 schools in
Fresno and 49 schools in Richmond, all of which included at least three grades tested by
NCLB, remained.
1 District official, personal communication with G. Sunderman, 12-3-02.
16
Next, the schools identified as needing improvement were split into two groups, those
that were in year one or two of school improvement and those that were in year three of
school improvement. Schools were categorized in this way because those in year one or
two of school improvement status under NCLB must provide students with the option to
transfer to another school and/or provide supplemental educational services, both
sanctions targeted at individual students, while schools in year three of improvement are
also subject to corrective action, which is targeted at the school level. This framework
was established to allow us to gather more nuanced information about the opinions of
teachers in improvement schools. In this report, however, the responses of teachers in
improvement schools are reported as one group.
After establishing this framework and narrowing the number of potential schools, there
were only 15 schools labeled as needing improvement in Richmond. Since we had aimed
for a sample of 15 improvement schools, all were selected. In Fresno, there were 37
schools labeled as needing improvement and eligible to be included in the sample.
Fourteen schools in Fresno were in year one of improvement status, and five of those
were randomly selected. There were only five schools in year two of school
improvement, and all five were selected. We then randomly selected 10 of the 18 schools
in year three of school improvement.
In Fresno, one school identified as needing improvement had been restructured and was
eliminated from the sample, resulting in a final sample of 19 schools identified as
needing improvement and 10 schools that had made adequate progress. The final sample
in Richmond included 15 improvement and 10 adequate progress schools. All schools in
the final samples participated in the survey. As a result, all teachers in more than onethird
of the eligible elementary and middle schools in Fresno and one-half of those in
Richmond were surveyed.
Student Characteristics
In both districts, the sampled schools serve a substantial percentage of the overall
population of students in the district. The schools sampled in Fresno serve over 21,000
students, approximately one-quarter of the students district-wide. In Richmond, the
sampled schools serve just over 12,000 students, approximately 46% of the students
district-wide.
The racial/ethnic characteristics of the students in three of the four categories of schools
in the two districts are similar to the same types of schools district-wide. The exception
is the group of improvement schools in Richmond, which has a population of Black
students (95.7%) that is higher than that of the district (89.5%) and a population of White
students (2.1%) that is lower than the district (7.4%).
17
Table 4: Total Enrollment and Racial/Ethnic Characteristic of Students in Fresno and
Richmond Samples, 2002-2003
Sample
Total
Enrollment % Asian % Black % Latino
% Native
Amer. % White
Fresno Need Imp. 14,461 18.8 13.2 59.1 0.7 8.2
Fresno Adeq. Prog 6,853 8.9 10.7 54.1 0.9 25.3
Fresno Tot Sample 21,314 15.6 12.4 57.5 0.8 13.7
Richmond Need Imp. 7,143 0.3 95.7 1.9 0.0 2.1
Richmond Adeq. Prog 4,963 0.8 87.5 2.0 0.1 9.5
Richmond Tot Sample 12,106 0.5 92.4 1.9 0.1 5.1
Source: State data files obtained from the California Educational Demographics Office
(http://data1.cde.ca.gov/dataquest) and the Virginia Office of Information Technology
(www.pen.k12.va.us/VDOE/Publications/rep_page.htm).
The percentage of low-income students in three of the four categories of schools was
consistent with similar schools district-wide. The one exception was in Fresno, where
nearly 95% of the students in the improvement schools were low-income students, but
81.2% of students in improvement schools district-wide were low-income. The higher
concentration of poverty in the improvement schools in Fresno may be the result of the
large number of schools selected for the study that were in their third year of
improvement status.
Table 5: Low-income* Students in Fresno and Richmond, Schools Sample and Districtwide,
2002-2003
Need Imp. Adeq. Prog.
Total
Enrollment
% Low-
Income
Total
Enrollment
% Low-
Income
Fresno Sample 14,461 94.8 6,853 67.9
Fresno District 30,919 81.2 52,493 67.1
Richmond Sample 7,143 74.2 4,963 63.1
Richmond District 8,201 73.6 17,935 57.7
* Eligibility for free and reduced price school lunch was used to determine low-income status.
Source: State data files obtained from the California Educational Demographics Office
(http://data1.cde.ca.gov/dataquest) and the Virginia Office of Information Technology
(www.pen.k12.va.us/VDOE/Publications/rep_page.htm).
18
Teacher Characteristics
Of the 1,866 teachers who were eligible to receive the survey, 1,445 returned surveys2,
for an excellent response rate of 77.4%. In Fresno, the response rate was 80.7%, and in
Richmond it was 73.0%. Over three-quarters of the teachers in both districts were female
and, most often, were assigned to teach all elementary subjects. The racial demographics
of the teachers varied depending on the district where they taught.
In Fresno, a total of 862 teachers completed surveys. Teachers both in schools making
adequate progress and in those labeled as needing improvement were approximately 60%
white. In Richmond, 583 teachers completed and returned surveys. Teachers from
schools that had been labeled as needing improvement were 60.8% African-American,
while 48.4% of the teachers from schools making adequate progress were African-
American.
Table 6: Self-Reported Teacher Demographics in Fresno Sample, 2004
Sample % Asian % Black % Latino
% Native
Amer. % White % Other
Fresno Need Imp. 6.4 4.3 20.9 1.0 56.3 5.2
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 6.8 0.7 21.1 0.7 62.0 3.6
Richmond Need Imp. 0.3 60.8 1.6 0.3 26.8 3.6
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 0.7 48.4 0.7 0.4 39.7 3.6
Source: No Child Left Behind: Teachers? Voice survey, question 24 (Fresno) and question 23 (Richmond)
Data Collection and Analysis
Administration of the surveys was coordinated with district-level officials and conducted
by school staff members. Teachers were asked to complete the survey at faculty
meetings and were provided envelopes to return completed surveys. To ensure the
anonymity of the teachers during the handling of the surveys by school and district
officials prior to their return to The Civil Rights Project, the envelopes could be sealed.
After receipt, the survey data was transferred to scannable forms to enable consistent
entry into an electronic database. Once the database was established, we selected a
random 10% sample of surveys from each category of schools and reviewed them to
evaluate the accuracy of the data-entry process. This review found a 99.5% rate of
accuracy. This high rate of accuracy should ensure that data-entry errors had a negligible
effect on the analysis of the data. For the purposes of this report, we calculated simple
frequencies and percentages based on the responses to the survey items. On occasion, the
2 The number of teachers answering each question varied slightly due to non-response and technical errors
in the data entry and scanning process. These small differences have a negligible effect on the analysis of
the data.
19
results reported in this document may be reported according to categories collapsed
during data analysis. When this is the case, proper notation accompanies the data.
Generalizability of Findings
The data reported in this report should be considered reasonably representative of the
opinions of elementary and middle school teachers in Fresno and Richmond. The views
of teachers expressed in this report should not be considered representative of the views
of teachers at the state or national level.
20
RESULTS OF THE TEACHERS? VOICE SURVEY
In this segment of the report we present the results of the survey, beginning with how
teachers view their schools and their perceptions of the school?s instructional program
and culture. Section II talks about teachers? general impressions and knowledge of
NCLB. Teacher perceptions about NCLB accountability, sanctions and incentives are
presented in Section III. Section IV talks more specifically about changes schools may
have made to improve curriculum and instruction. The final section summarizes what
teachers believe they need to improve their schools.
I. Teacher Views of their Schools
Teacher views about the quality and rigor of their instructional program provide a
measure of how well they perceive the school is doing apart from their opinions about the
merits of the NCLB requirements or its effect on schools. We asked teachers to provide
their perceptions of the curriculum and instructional program in their school, including
the rigor of standards, the quality of the curriculum, the dedication of the teaching staff
and the quality of their instruction. Their responses provide a good idea of the status of
the school?s instructional program and insight into teachers? opinions regarding its
effectiveness.
Teachers in schools both labeled as needing improvement and those making adequate
progress were positive about the instructional program in their schools. Teachers were
also realistic. Teachers in schools that had been identified for improvement were slightly
less positive about their school?s instructional program than were teachers in schools
making adequate progress. While recognizing that improvements were possible, they
also believed that they were limited in what they could accomplish in their school.
Standards for Student Achievement
A high percentage of teachers in both districts agreed that the standards for student
achievement are challenging, attainable and measurable. Teachers in adequate progress
schools were more likely to agree with this statement than their counterparts in
improvement schools (Table 7). Teachers in schools designated as needing improvement
in Fresno were least likely to provide a positive review of the standards, with
approximately 40% of teachers agreeing and one-quarter of teachers disagreeing with the
statement. A high percentage of teachers did not express an opinion on the issue, as there
was a high rate of neutral responses.
As such standards are usually set externally, often at the state level, differences in the
responses between localities are also worth considering. Teachers in Virginia responded
positively regarding the standards at higher rates than their peers in California, with an
approximately 15-percentage-point difference between the responses by state in each
category of school performance. While it is difficult to definitively explain such
differences, one might speculate that such differences in this instance are related to the
21
stability of standards and accountability system in Virginia versus the less stable
standards and accountability system in California.
Table 7: Please indicate the degree with which you agree or disagree with the following
statement about the curriculum and instruction in your school:
Standards for student achievement are challenging, attainable, and measurable.
Strongly
Agree
Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly
Disagree
Sum
Agree
Sum
Disagree
Fresno Need Imp. 11.5 31.2 33.1 16.5 7.7 42.7 24.2
Richmond Need Imp. 21.4 39.5 28.4 7.7 3.0 60.9 10.7
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 28.5 27.4 12.3 4.7 17 27.1 55.9
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 28.8 41.7 21.4 6.3 1.8 70.5 8.1
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers' Voice survey, question: 8j (Fresno) and 7j (Richmond)
Teachers were even more supportive of the notion that school-level standards for student
achievement were high in the schools in which they work. There were slight differences
between the rate of agreement among teachers in schools that had made adequate
progress and the rate of agreement in schools that had been designated as needing
improvement. Teachers in adequate progress schools were more likely to say that their
schools had high academic standards than were teachers in improvement schools. In each
of the four types of schools, a very low percentage of teachers disagreed.
Table 8: Please indicate the degree with which you agree or disagree with the following
statement about the curriculum and instruction in your school:
This school has high standards for students' academic performance.
Strongly
Agree
Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly
Disagree
Sum
Agree
Sum
Disagree
Fresno Need Imp. 29.4 38.2 21.2 7.1 4.2 67.6 11.3
Richmond Need Imp. 35.3 38.0 20.3 3.4 3.1 73.3 6.5
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 51.3 30.7 10.5 6.1 1.4 82.0 7.5
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 48.5 34.9 11.8 3.7 1.1 83.4 4.8
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers' Voice survey, question 8f (Fresno) and 7f (Richmond)
Curriculum
A majority of teachers in both districts and in both improvement and adequate progress
schools believed that their schools had high-quality, school-wide curriculum plans.
There was very little difference in the responses of the teachers between the two districts.
Two-thirds of teachers in schools designated as needing improvement and three-quarters
of teachers in schools that had made adequate progress agreed with this view of the
curriculum. In improvement schools, the ratio of teachers who agreed to those who
disagreed was just over 5 to 1. In adequate progress schools, this ratio was over 10 to 1.
22
Table 9: Please indicate the degree with which you agree or disagree with the following
statement about the curriculum and instruction in your school:
This school has high quality school-wide curriculum plans.
Strongly
Agree
Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly
Disagree
Sum
Agree
Sum
Disagree
Fresno Need Imp. 28 37.2 21.9 8.2 4 65.2 12.2
Richmond Need Imp. 26.3 40.4 21.2 6.7 5.4 66.7 12.1
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 44.4 31.8 16.2 4 3.6 76.2 7.6
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 40.1 35.3 18.4 4 2.2 75.3 6.2
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers' Voice survey, question 8a (Fresno) and 7a (Richmond)
There were only slight differences between schools labeled as needing improvement and
those making adequate progress when teachers were asked their opinion concerning
whether the curriculum in their school was linked to measures of student achievement, an
important aspect of standards-based educational reform. The percentage of teachers
agreeing that the curriculum was aligned with academic standards was very high, with
over three-quarters of teachers in each district agreeing with the statement. Again, very
low percentages of teachers in each category of schools disagreed with this notion.
Table 10: Please indicate the degree with which you agree or disagree with the following
statement about the curriculum and instruction in your school:
The curriculum is aligned with established academic measures (e.g.; standardized tests,
rubrics, etc.)
Strongly
Agree
Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly
Disagree
Sum
Agree
Sum
Disagree
Fresno Need Imp. 30.7 45.1 17.5 4.8 1.9 75.8 6.7
Richmond Need Imp. 36.3 40.0 18.7 2.7 2.3 76.3 5.0
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 46.9 34.3 14.8 2.2 1.8 81.2 4.0
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 41.8 41.4 13.2 2.2 1.5 83.2 3.7
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers' Voice survey, question 8g (Fresno) and 7g (Richmond)
Such teacher beliefs regarding the quality of curriculum and the links between the
curriculum and measures of student achievement indicate that teachers believe that
students in their school are being provided adequate opportunity to learn the material
covered by the state tests. However, when these results are considered within the context
of teacher feedback on the impact of NCLB accountability on curriculum and instruction
(see section III), it suggests that NCLB may be establishing conditions that undermine
rather than support a school?s instructional program.
Achievement-oriented Culture
We asked teachers three questions to help evaluate whether they believed that their
schools had an achievement-oriented culture. Two of these questions related to the
dedication and skill-level of teachers and the third related to student work ethic. As
23
might be expected, teachers responded strongly to the questions regarding their
dedication and instructional skills. An extremely high percentage of teachers agreed with
the statement that teachers were committed to improving student achievement, with a
very small percentage of teachers disagreeing. Both in schools designated as needing
improvement and in those meeting performance goals in each locale, half, or more, of
teachers strongly agreed that their colleagues were committed to improving achievement
outcomes.
Table 11: Please indicate the degree with which you agree or disagree with the following
statement about the curriculum and instruction in your school:
Teachers are committed to improving student achievement.
Strongly
Agree
Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly
Disagree
Sum
Agree
Sum
Disagree
Fresno Need Imp. 53.4 32.4 10.6 2.1 1.5 85.8 3.6
Richmond Need Imp. 48.5 32.9 14.2 2.7 1.7 81.4 4.4
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 67.5 23.5 6.5 0.7 1.8 91.0 2.5
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 57.7 32.0 9.2 0.4 0.7 89.7 1.1
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers' Voice survey, question 8h (Fresno) and 7h (Richmond)
Teachers were also very supportive of the notion that they and their colleagues provided
students with high quality instruction. In each district, less than 6% of teachers disagreed
with the statement. Rates of agreement with the statement that teachers in their school
provide high quality instruction exhibited a 10 percentage-point difference between
improvement schools in Fresno (77.4%) and Richmond (77.2%) and adequate progress
schools in Fresno (87.4%) and Richmond (87.2%). There was also a 20-point difference
in the percentage of teachers strongly agreeing with the statement between the two
categories of schools in Fresno.
Table 12: Please indicate the degree with which you agree or disagree with the following
statement about the curriculum and instruction in your school:
Teachers provide a high quality of instruction.
Strongly
Agree
Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly
Disagree
Sum
Agree
Sum
Disagree
Fresno Need Imp. 33.1 44.3 15.4 5.3 0.0 77.4 5.3
Richmond Need Imp. 38.9 38.3 18.8 2.3 1.7 77.2 4.0
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 54.5 32.9 8.7 2.9 1.1 87.4 4.0
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 44.9 42.3 10.7 1.8 0.4 87.2 2.2
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers' Voice survey, question 8k (Fresno) and 7k (Richmond)
Numerous studies have confirmed that there is an important relationship between teacher
quality and student achievement (Darling-Hammond, 2000; Loeb, 2000; Wayne &
Youngs, 2003) . While teachers were generally supportive of the instructional skills of
their colleagues, the differences between teachers in improvement and adequate progress
schools regarding how they perceived the quality of the instruction suggests that high
24
quality teachers may be unevenly distributed among schools, a problem that NCLB
purports to help solve. Studies of such distribution problems, and the impact of NCLB
on this distribution, should be encouraged.
While teachers generally believed that their colleagues were effective instructors, a high
percentage of teachers indicated that it was important that ineffective teachers be
removed from schools. In schools labeled as needing improvement, nearly 60% of
teachers in each district indicated that removing ineffective teachers was either
moderately or very important, with even higher percentages of teachers expressing this
opinion in schools that had made adequate progress. Few teachers (16% or less)
indicated that removing ineffective teachers was ?not at all? important.
Table 13: To what extent are the following conditions important to you in deciding
whether to stay and/or teach in a school identified as in need of improvement?
Removing ineffective teachers
Not at all Somewhat
Important
Moderately
Important
Very
Important
Fresno Need Imp. 15.9 26.7 25.6 31.8
Richmond Need Imp. 8.3 24.7 30.9 36.1
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 16.1 23.8 28.6 31.1
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 4.5 18.8 30.8 45.9
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers' Voice survey, question 18q (Fresno) and 17q (Richmond)
Teacher support for removing ineffective colleagues indicates that they are willing to
accept an accountability system that fairly measures instructional quality. Teachers?
beliefs that NCLB will unfairly punish and reward teachers (see section III), however,
may indicate that they do not believe that the current design of the NCLB accountability
system fairly measures instructional quality.
When asked about the third component of an achievement-oriented culture, student work
ethic, teachers in adequate progress schools supported the notion that students worked
hard, but teachers in improvement schools were divided. Nearly identical percentages of
teachers in improvement schools agreed and disagreed with the idea that students worked
hard at their studies. In both districts, there were differences of over 20 percentage-points
between improvement and adequate progress schools on this topic. Such discrepancies
may provide insight into factors relating to school culture that teachers feel account for
their inability to increase student achievement at a rate acceptable under NCLB, given
that they hold curriculum and instruction in their schools in high regard.
25
Table 14: Please indicate the degree with which you agree or disagree with the following
statement about the curriculum and instruction in your school.
Students work hard in this school.
Strongly
Agree
Agree Neutral
Disagree
Strongly
Disagree
Sum
Agree
Sum
Disagree
Fresno Need Imp. 13.3 19.2 37.3 20.8 9.5 32.5 30.3
Richmond Need Imp. 13.0 20.7 38.0 16.7 11.7 33.7 28.4
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 27.6 30.2 29.5 8.4 4.4 57.8 12.8
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 24.0 31.0 29.2 11.4 4.4 55.0 15.8
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers' Voice survey, Question: 8l (Fresno) and 7l (Richmond)
Summary
Teachers believed their schools had high standards and that the curriculum in their
schools was of high quality and linked to academic standards. They rated their
colleagues highly in terms of quality of instruction and dedication to improving student
achievement, and appeared to be accepting of accountability if it was based on a system
that fairly measured instructional performance. Teachers in improvement schools were
split regarding whether students in their school worked hard, while their colleagues in
adequate progress schools were not. There were persistent differences between the rate
of positive reviews on the items in this section between improvement schools and
adequate progress schools, suggesting that teachers are realistic about their assessment of
their schools.
26
II. General Impressions and Knowledge of NCLB
NCLB is a complex law with a myriad of requirements that went into effect almost
immediately after it was enacted and signed into law in 2002. When we conducted the
survey in the spring of 2004, schools were completing the second full year under the
NCLB provisions. Teachers reported that they were informed about the law, as shown in
Table 15. About a quarter to a third of the teachers in the two districts reported that they
knew ?quite a lot? about NCLB and about two-thirds to three-fourths of the teachers
reported knowing ?a little or some? about the law.
Table 15: How much do you know about the No Child Left Behind Act?
Not much A little/some* Quite a lot
Fresno Need Imp. 9.0 58.7 32.1
Richmond Need Imp. 2.7 71.0 26.4
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 11.2 64.0 24.7
Richmond Adeq.Prog. 3.3 66.9 29.8
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers? Voice survey, question 1 (Fresno) and 1 (Richmond)
* The categories ?A little? and ?Some? have been collapsed in Richmond.
In Fresno, information about NCLB came primarily from school-level workshops, with
32.4% of teachers in improvement schools and 35.9% of teachers in adequate progress
schools reporting this as their primary source of information (Table 16). Teachers were
much less likely to receive information about NCLB from either the state or district,
although improvement schools reported the district as a source of information about
NCLB at a higher rate than did adequate progress schools (13.5% for improvement
schools versus 7.7% for adequate progress schools). Thus, improvement schools did
receive some attention from the district as a result of being identified for improvement.
While the school level workshops could have used state or district materials, teachers did
not perceive the district or state as a primary source of information on NCLB, suggesting
that communication linkages between teachers and other levels of the school system may
not be well established. The media was another source of information on NCLB. About
a quarter of the teachers in adequate progress schools (23.6%) reported that they relied on
local or national media for information about NCLB.
27
Table 16: Which of the following sources was most effective in informing you about
NCLB? Check only one.
Fresno
Need Imp.
Fresno
Adeq. Prog.
State Department of Education workshop/professional
development 3.4 1.8
District workshop/professional development 13.5 7.7
School workshop/professional development 32.4 35.9
Other colleagues 13.0 11.4
Local or national media 17.0 23.6
On my own 13.0 10.5
Other sources 7.6 9.1
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers? Voice survey, question 2 (Fresno).
About half of the teachers in Richmond did not believe there are sufficient resources for
their school to meet the AYP goals, with little difference between teachers in
improvement schools (20.6% disagreed and 26.7% strongly disagreed) and adequate
progress schools. (20.7% disagreed and 29.2% strongly disagreed). Less than a fifth of
the teachers in improvement schools believed there were adequate resources. Among
those who expressed an opinion, there was a 2 to 1 ratio of teachers who believed the
available resources were insufficient to those who believed available resources were
sufficient to meet the AYP goals.
Table 17: There are sufficient resources for our school to meet the NCLB adequate
yearly progress (AYP) goals.
Strongly
Agree
Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly
Disagree
Richmond Need Imp. 5.4 13.5 33.8 20.6 26.7
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 4.1 21.4 24.7 20.7 29.2
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers? Voice survey, question 5f (Richmond)
A primary purpose of accountability programs with high stakes attached is to exert
pressure on teachers to change their instructional practices in ways that will increase
student achievement. Teachers in Fresno reported feeling implementation pressures that
were having a negative, rather than positive, effect on their morale and performance. In
Fresno, 40.9% of the teachers in improvement schools and 34.9% of the teachers in
adequate progress schools reported ?experiencing implementation pressures that were
negatively impacting their morale and/or performance.? Only 21.4% of teachers in both
types of schools believed that teachers were making changes that would improve student
performance. Instead, many believed that most teachers had made no changes
(improvement schools, 18.2%; adequate progress schools, 21.8%) or that NCLB was
diverting attention away from more important issues (improvement schools, 13.6%;
adequate progress schools, 17.5%). We discuss the effects of the NCLB provisions on
instruction and curriculum greater detail in sections III and IV.
28
Table18: In my school, I believe the major effect of NCLB to date is that most teachers
are (check only one):
Fresno
Need Imp.
Fresno
Adeq. Prog.
Carrying on their work much as they did before NCLB. 18.2 21.8
Beginning to think, talk, and/or act in new ways that may
ultimately result in more students performing at higher levels. 21.4 21.4
Diverting their attention from more important issues that can
improve teaching and learning. 13.6 17.5
Experiencing implement pressures that are negatively impacting
their morale and/or performance. 40.9 34.9
Leaving or thinking about leaving teaching. 6.0 4.4
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers? Voice survey, question 3 (Fresno)
In Richmond we asked teachers ?what overall effect do you think NCLB is having on
your school?? Teachers in Richmond were divided about the overall effect of the law,
perhaps reflecting the complexity of the law itself. Close to half of the teachers believed
that the overall effect of NCLB was negative, with 45.7% of teachers in improvement
schools and 47.3% of teachers in adequate progress schools responding negatively. But
substantial numbers of teachers also thought the overall effect was positive, with 36.4%
of teachers in improvement schools and 39.4% of teachers in adequate progress schools
responding positively. Few believed NCLB was having no effect.
Table 19: What overall effect do you think NCLB is having on your school?
Very
Positive
Positive No
Effect
Negative Very
Negative
Sum
Positive
Sum
Negative
Richmond Need Imp. 5.5 30.9 17.9 35.7 10.0 36.4 45.7
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 3.5 35.8 13.5 38.1 9.2 39.4 47.3
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers' Voice survey, question: 2 (Richmond)
Summary
Teachers reported that they were informed about NCLB and that they learned about the
law from school workshops. They also believed there were insufficient resources to meet
the NCLB requirements. This should not be surprising since low-performing schools
must make very large gains to reach the state defined proficiency levels, which may be
difficult for schools serving large numbers of poorly performing students given their
current level of resources. Finally, teachers are feeling the pressure exerted by the NCLB
requirements, but believe these are having a negative rather than positive effect,
particularly on their morale and performance.
29
III. Accountability, Incentives and Sanctions
By holding schools accountable for student improvement and labeling low-performing
schools as in need of improvement, NCLB assumes that school improvement will occur
as a result of changes in the direction of the school and work effort of teachers. It relies
on sanctions to motivate teachers to make the needed changes. Teachers in Fresno
disagreed with the notion that identifying schools that have not made adequate yearly
progress will lead to school improvement?49.9% of teachers in improvement schools
and 42.1% of teachers in adequate progress schools disagreed with this statement.
Reflecting the complexity of this notion is the large number of teachers who expressed no
opinion?30.3% of teachers in improvement and 40.3% of teachers in adequate progress
schools. Teachers recognized the value of knowing how their students are doing, but also
that improving schools requires effective teachers, committed administrators, and
sufficient resources in the form of instructional and curriculum materials (see section V).
Table 20: To what extent do you disagree or agree with the following statements?
Identifying schools that have not made adequate yearly progress (AYP) will lead to
school improvement.
Strongly
Agree
Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly
Disagree
Sum
Agree
Sum
Disagree
Fresno Need Imp. 3.3 16.5 30.3 28.0 21.9 19.8 49.9
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 3.2 14.4 40.3 26.6 15.5 17.6 42.1
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers? Voice survey, question 4a (Fresno)
NCLB Sanctions
Teachers in both Fresno and Richmond agreed that NCLB sanctions would unfairly
reward and punish teachers. Teachers in Fresno were more likely to express such a
belief, and teachers in schools making adequate progress were slightly more likely to
share such a belief. As shown in Table 21, 80% of teachers in Fresno and 64.1% of
teachers in Richmond who taught in an adequate progress school agreed with this
statement. In schools that were identified for improvement, 73.9% of teachers in Fresno
and 60.7% of Richmond teachers agreed. Teachers felt strongly about this, with over half
of the teachers in Fresno strongly agreeing that sanctions were unfair and about a third of
the teachers in Richmond strongly agreeing.
30
Table 21: NCLB sanctions will . . .
Unfairly reward and punish many teachers.
Strongly
Agree
Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly
Disagree
Sum
Agree
Sum
Disagree
Fresno Need Imp. 52.1 21.8 11.9 8.2 6.1 73.9 14.3
Richmond Need Imp. 35.6 25.1 27.5 6.8 5.1 60.7 11.9
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 50.9 29.1 13.1 4.4 2.5 80.0 6.9
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 35.5 28.6 17.9 10.6 7.3 64.1 17.9
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers? Voice survey. Question 6b (Fresno) and 4b (Richmond)
Teachers agreed that NCLB sanctions would encourage teachers to transfer out of schools
identified for improvement, with about half of teachers in both districts, and in both
improvement and adequate progress schools, agreeing with the statement (Table 22).
Among teachers responding to this question, the ratio of teachers who believe NCLB
sanctions will encourage teachers to transfer to those who do not was about 2:1 in Fresno
and about 3:1 in Richmond.
Table 22: NCLB sanctions will . . .
Encourage teachers to transfer out of schools identified for improvement.
Strongly
Agree
Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly
Disagree
Sum
Agree
Sum
Disagree
Fresno Need Imp. 23.8 23.2 26.4 15.7 10.9 47.0 26.6
Richmond Need Imp. 31.1 24.3 28.0 9.5 7.1 55.4 16.6
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 25.0 29.0 23.5 11.8 10.7 54.0 22.5
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 31.0 25.5 25.8 9.6 8.1 56.5 17.7
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers? Voice survey, question 6f (Fresno) and 4f (Richmond).
Data on how long teachers plan to remain in teaching lends credence to the idea that an
unintended effect of the NCLB accountability system is that it will make it more difficult
to attract and retain teachers to low-performing schools. When teachers were asked how
long they plan to continue teaching in their present school, teachers indicated in large
numbers that they plan to leave within 5 years, with teachers in improvement schools
(Fresno, 51.5%; Richmond, 75.5%) more likely to leave within 5 years than teachers in
adequate progress schools (Fresno, 40.5%; Richmond, 67.3%). In improvement schools
in Richmond, only 24.5% of teachers plan to remain at their current school for more than
5 years. To compare, data from a national study found that 44% of teachers would likely
be in the same school for five years (Luekens, 2004). Fresno compares favorably with
the national statistics (48.5% of teachers in improvement schools; 59.7% in adequate
progress schools plan to continue teaching in the same school for more than five years)
whereas Richmond compares unfavorably (24.5% of teachers in improvement schools;
32.7% in adequate progress schools plan to continue teaching in the same school for
more than five years). This data is consistent with other research showing that schoolbased
accountability systems exacerbated the challenges that schools serving lowperforming
students face in retaining and attracting high-quality teachers (Clotfelter,
Ladd, Vigdor, & Diaz, 2004).
31
Table 23: How long do you plan to continue teaching at this school?
0-5 years More than 5 years
Fresno Need Imp. 51.5 48.5
Richmond Need Imp. 75.5 24.5
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 40.5 59.7
Richmond Adeq. Prog 67.3 32.7
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers? Voice survey, question 32 (Fresno) and 31 (Richmond)
The differences between Fresno and Richmond in teacher retention may be related to
differences in the recruiting and retention environments of the districts. Our district
interviews indicated that Fresno has a favorable environment for attracting and retaining
teachers because the city has a low cost of living and is considered a more attractive place
to live than the rural districts that surround it. Thus, few districts compete with Fresno
for the teachers coming out of the area?s three local teacher-training programs3. The
situation is very different in Richmond, which must attract teachers from out of state
because of the state?s high certification requirements and an inadequate supply of
teachers coming from the state colleges. Retaining teachers in Richmond is exacerbated
by the option teachers have to transfer to the higher socio-economic districts that
surround the city of Richmond.
Teachers? views about sanctions are complex. Our data indicate that teachers did not
entirely oppose the idea of either incentives or sanctions. When asked what conditions
were important to them in deciding whether to stay and teach in a school identified for
improvement, they voiced moderate support for rewards for improving student
performance, public recognition for improving student achievement, and, to a lesser
extent, sanctions for poor performance (see Table 34 on page 41). In other words,
teachers would like to see some rewards and public recognition for their work, but their
responses to NCLB accountability and sanctions indicate that the way NCLB sanctions
are currently structured is counterproductive, both in terms of encouraging school
improvement and attracting and retaining teachers in low-performing schools.
Improving School Performance
Teachers were split about the effect of the NCLB sanctions on improving school
performance. They rejected the notion that transfers would improve schools but were
more favorable about the potential of supplemental educational services to improve them.
Teachers in Fresno did not believe that allowing students to transfer to another school if
their school had been identified as in need of improvement would lead low performing
schools to improve; less than 7% of teachers agreed. Teachers in both adequate progress
schools and improvement schools overwhelmingly disagreed with the efficacy of this
reform?45.2% in improvement schools and 50.5% in adequate progress schools strongly
disagreed (Table 24). Overall, 75.6% of teachers in schools identified for improvement
3 District official, personal communication with J. Jellison Holme, 8-1-03
32
and 81.0% of teachers in schools making adequate progress disagreed with this statement.
There was a 12:1 ratio between teachers who disagreed with the idea that transfers would
lead to school improvement and those who agreed.
Table 24: Allowing students to transfer to another school if their school has been
identified as ?in need of improvement? will lead low-performing schools to improve.
Strongly
Agree
Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly
Disagree
Sum
Agree
Sum
Disagree
Fresno Need Imp. 1.5 4.8 18.1 30.4 45.2 6.3 75.6
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 1.4 2.9 14.7 30.5 50.5 4.3 81.0
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers? Voice survey, question 4b (Fresno).
On the other hand, teachers in Fresno were somewhat more supportive of the idea that
supplemental educational services would improve student achievement, although this
support varied depending on the type of school (Table 25). Teachers in schools identified
for improvement were less supportive of the value of supplemental educational services
than were teachers in schools making adequate progress (31.1% of teachers in
improvement schools agreed whereas 40.3% of teachers in adequate progress schools
agreed).
Table 25: Providing supplemental educational services (out of school tutoring provided
by private or non-profit organizations) for students attending schools identified as ?in
need of improvement? will lead low-performing schools to improve.
Strongly
Agree
Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly
Disagree
Sum
Agree
Sum
Disagree
Fresno Need Imp. 8.6 22.5 30.1 19.4 19.4 31.1 38.8
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 14.4 25.9 32.4 17.4 10.1 40.3 27.4
Source: No Child Left Behind, The Teachers? Voice survey, question 4c (Fresno)
Notwithstanding the support for supplemental educational services, this support may be
theoretical?that is, teachers are favorable towards the idea of students receiving extra
help?rather than based on actual experience with the services or the success of these
services in improving student achievement. As shown in Table 26, participation in the
supplemental educational services program was very low during the first year, with less
than 1% of students receiving services in Fresno and about 2% receiving services in
Richmond. While participation increased during the 2003-04 school year, it was still
extremely low. As evidence of the effectiveness of these services becomes available and
teachers gain experience with them, these views on supplemental educational services
may change. Our question did not note that money for supplemental educational services
is set aside from money allocated for Title I reforms in their schools.
33
Table 26: Student Participation in Supplemental Educational Services by District, 2002-03
and 2003-04.
District Eligible Students Requested Supp. Ed. Received Supp. Ed.
Number Number % of eligible Number % of eligible
02-03 03-04 02-03 03-04 02-03 03-04 02-03 03-04 02-03 03-04
Fresno, CA 16,831 21,051 234 288 1.4 1.4 36 119 0.2 0.5
Richmond, VA 6,033 N/A 600 N/A 9.9 N/A 122 N/A 2.0 N/A
Source: Personnel communication with district officials in Fresno and Richmond. See also (Sunderman & Kim,
2004b).
Finally, teachers may voice more support for supplemental education services because
they believe supplemental services hold more potential to return value to the school than
the transfer option. A student receiving services would hopefully improve his or her
overall performance, thus helping the school improve its average test score performance.
Students who transfer out of a school do little to add value to the school or improve its
average test scores. Since higher performing students are more likely to transfer, there
would be little contribution from students leaving to measures of school progress. While
the assumptions underlying NCLB are that sanctions will motivate teachers to improve
their instructional practices, teachers have a more nuanced view that recognizes the
contribution students make, particularly when average test scores are the benchmark used
for accountability.
Effect of NCLB Accountability on Curriculum and Instruction
Our survey results confirm that the NCLB accountability system is influencing the
instructional and curricular practices of teachers, but that it is producing unintended and
possibly negative consequences. Teachers believed that both sanctions and the AYP
requirements cause them to ignore important aspects of the curriculum (Tables 27 & 28).
For example, 46.0% of teachers in improvement schools in Fresno and 34.2% of teachers
in improvement schools in Richmond strongly agreed that the AYP requirements caused
teachers to de-emphasize or neglect untested topics (Table 27). Teachers in adequate
progress schools were even more likely to strongly agree with this change, with 54.0% of
teachers in Fresno and 39.5% of teachers in Richmond strongly in agreement (Table 27).
Taken together, this is a ratio of 8:1 in Fresno and about 5:1 in Richmond.
34
Table 27: The adequate yearly progress (AYP) requirements have caused some teachers
to de-emphasize or neglect untested topics.
Strongly
Agree
Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly
Disagree
Sum
Agree
Sum
Disagree
Fresno Need Imp. 46.0 28.2 16.1 4.8 4.8 74.2 9.6
Richmond Need Imp. 34.2 26.8 26.5 6.7 5.7 61.0 12.4
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 54.0 24.5 12.2 5.4 4.0 78.5 9.4
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 39.5 31.0 14.4 10.7 4.4 70.5 15.1
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers? Voice survey, question 7e (Fresno) and 5e (Richmond)
Table 28: NCLB sanctions will . . .
Cause teachers to ignore important aspects of the curriculum.
Strongly
Agree
Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly
Disagree
Sum
Agree
Sum
Disagree
Fresno Need Imp. 31.6 20.5 19.2 13.6 15.1 52.1 28.7
Richmond Need Imp. 22.8 20.5 25.8 17.1 13.8 43.3 30.9
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 35.0 25.3 21.7 6.9 11.2 60.3 18.1
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 23.9 20.6 22.4 19.5 13.6 44.5 33.1
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers? Voice survey, question 6g (Fresno) and 4g (Richmond)
Teachers are shifting their attention away from teaching subjects that are not tested to
increasing the amount of time they spend teaching subjects that are tested. To prepare for
the state-mandated testing program, teachers spent more time on subjects that were tested
and less time teaching subjects that were not tested (Tables 29 & 30). About 70% of
teachers in both districts indicated that they increased the amount of time they spend
teaching the tested subjects. Almost none of the teachers, less than 4% in both districts,
said they decreased the amount time spent on tested subjects. Since time on tested
subjects has increased, it is no surprise that time spent teaching subjects that are not
tested has decreased. About half of the teachers in both districts said they had decreased
the amount of time spent on subjects not tested.
Table 29: In what way, if any, has the amount of time you spend on each of the following
activities changed in your classroom in order to prepare students for the state-mandated
testing program?
Teaching on subjects that are tested.
Increased
Greatly
Increased
Somewhat
About the
Same
Decreased
Somewhat
Decreased
Greatly
Sum
Increase
Sum
Decrease
Fresno Need Imp 34.8 37.8 23.9 1.9 1.7 72.6 3.6
Richmond Need Imp 36.9 33.7 26.3 2.4 0.8 70.6 3.2
Fresno Adeq Prog 33.3 38.1 26.2 1.6 0.8 71.4 2.4
Richmond Adeq
Prog 35.8 35.0 26.1 1.8 1.3 70.8 3.1
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers? Voice survey, question 10m (Fresno) and 9m (Richmond)
35
Table 30: In what way, if any, has the amount of time you spend on each of the
following activities changed in your classroom in order to prepare students for the statemandated
testing program?
Teaching subjects that are not tested.
Increased
Greatly
Increased
Somewhat
About the
Same
Decreased
Somewhat
Decreased
Greatly
Sum
Increase
Sum
Decrease
Fresno Need Imp 2.1 7.1 33.3 27.7 29.8 9.2 57.5
Richmond Need Imp 3.9 12.6 36.2 22.4 24.8 16.5 47.2
Fresno Adeq Prog 0.8 6.7 39.5 28.1 24.9 7.5 53.0
Richmond Adeq
Prog 4.8 10.6 33.5 23.8 27.3 15.4 51.1
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers? Voice survey, question 10n (Fresno) and 9n (Richmond).
Summary
Our survey results reveal that teachers did not completely oppose the idea of sanctions
but they did question the efficacy of the NCLB accountability reforms. Teachers did not
believe that identifying schools that did not make adequate yearly progress would lead to
school improvement. We found that teachers held nuanced views about the NCLB
sanctions. The transfer option, for example, was viewed quite negatively while teachers
were more positive about the potential of supplemental educational services to improve
schools. Teachers may recognize that students transferring out of their schools,
particularly if they are the better performing students, will not improve the school?s
overall average test scores, the gauge used by NCLB to measure schools. Supplemental
services are more likely to benefit the school since students receiving the services are
likely to remain and may contribute to improving the school?s average test scores.
Teachers rejected the idea that the testing requirements would focus teachers? instruction
or improve the curriculum. Instead these reforms created the unintended consequence of
narrowing the curriculum and focusing instruction on the tested subjects. Teachers also
believed that the NCLB sanctions were counterproductive because they were likely to
cause teachers to leave schools identified for improvement. These findings suggest that
teachers did not believe that the NCLB accountability requirements or sanctions were
designed in a way that would lead to school improvement. They did not support the
notion underlying NCLB?that external accountability and the imposition of sanctions
will motivate teachers to improve and lead to school improvement?and they are dubious
about the value of market competition, as manifest in their responses to the transfer
option, for school improvement.
36
IV. Changes in Curriculum and Instruction
An underlying assumption of NCLB is that accountability and the application of
sanctions will motivate schools to adopt changes that will improve the school?s
instructional program. We asked teachers in Fresno to consider whether their schools
were putting new instructional programs in place, upgrading the curriculum, or focusing
on improving teachers? instructional methods and whether these actions were unrelated to
NCLB, came about as a result of NCLB, or there was no action taken by the school. As
shown in Table 31, these changes had taken place in most of both improvement schools
and adequate progress schools. For example, only 10.3% of improvement schools and
23.9% of adequate progress schools reported that no action had been taken to put a new
instructional program in place. Teachers were more likely to link a new instructional
program to NCLB in improvement schools (51.9%) than in adequate progress schools
(34.9%)
Teachers in both improvement schools and adequate progress schools also reported that
the school had upgraded the curriculum. However, they were less likely to link this to
NCLB. In improvement schools, 48.8% of teachers reported that upgrading the
curriculum was unrelated to NCLB and 35.5% reported that it came about as a result of
NCLB. In adequate progress schools, 53.6% of teachers reported that upgrading the
curriculum was unrelated to NCLB and 23.0% that it came about as a result of NCLB.
The most frequently adopted change was to focus on improving teachers? instructional
methods. Only 6.3% of the improvement schools and 11.5% of the adequate progress
schools reported no action was taken. Improvement schools were split as to whether this
was related to NCLB (43.8%) or unrelated to NCLB (50.0%).
37
Table 31: Please indicate whether the following actions were taken that were unrelated to
NCLB, came about as a result of NCLB, or there was no action taken by the school.
Put new instructional programs in place
Action taken unrelated
to NCLB
Came about as a result
of NCLB
No action taken
Fresno Need Imp. 37.8 51.9 10.3
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 41.2 34.9 23.9
Upgraded the curriculum
Action taken unrelated
to NCLB
Came about as a result
of NCLB
No action taken
Fresno Need Imp. 48.8 35.5 15.7
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 53.6 23.0 23.4
Focused on improving teachers? instructional methods
Action taken unrelated
to NCLB
Came about as a result
of NCLB
No action taken
Fresno Need Imp. 50.0 43.8 6.3
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 56.7 31.9 11.5
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers? Voice survey. Questions 5g, 5a, & 5f (Fresno).
Summary
The data from the survey indicate that schools are making changes and that many of these
changes were underway prior to NCLB, something that was confirmed in our district
interviews. Improvement schools were more likely than adequate progress schools to
have taken action to establish new instructional programs, upgrade the curriculum, or
focus on improving teachers? instructional methods, and to link these actions to NCLB.
Our evidence supports the idea of ?policy churn,? that is, schools in high-poverty
districts, and particularly low-performing schools, are continually changing programs in
response to calls for reform (Hess, 1999). Our data show that adequate progress schools
are more likely not to take any action, supporting the idea that churning may be more
prevalent in low-performing schools. The data also suggest that poorly performing
schools know they need to improve and had been working to do so prior to NCLB.
However, since changes take time to have an effect, a constant churning of programs and
curriculum can make it more difficult for schools to improve.
38
V. What Teachers Need
Teachers were in agreement about what they would need to improve their schools, with
few differences between Fresno and Richmond or between adequate progress schools and
improvement schools. They need more resources, but not just more money (Table 32).
They want more money for curricular and instructional materials, but equally important is
access to curriculum and instructional materials aligned with state standards. Close to
90% of the teachers in Fresno and Richmond think more curriculum and instructional
materials aligned with the state standards are very important or moderately important to
them (86.6% of teachers in need improvement and 85.4% in adequate progress schools in
Fresno; 93.6% of teachers in need improvement and 94.4% in adequate progress schools
in Richmond).
Additional time to collaborate with other teachers was more important than more
professional development. When we compare teacher responses on these two questions,
teachers were more likely to rate more time to collaborate with other teachers as very
important than they were to rate more professional development as very important
(between 54.5% and 69.0% rated more time to collaborate as very important compared to
between 35.9% and 61.0% who rated more time for professional development as very
important). Teachers also favored smaller classes, with over two-thirds of the teachers in
both districts saying this was very important. Teachers in Fresno considered small
classes the most important of all the resources they were asked about. California is a
state that has experimented statewide with lowering class size, but was unable to continue
funding for the initiative once the state budget shortfalls began.
39
Table 32: To what extent are the following conditions important to you in
deciding whether to stay and/or teach in a school identified as in need of
improvement?
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers' Voice survey, questions 18f,o,d,l,a (Fresno) and 17f,o,d,l,a (Richmond).
Teachers also want to work with experienced teachers and administrators (Table 33).
They were overwhelming in their support for having experienced administrators in their
schools, and were not entirely opposed to removing ineffective teachers. Over 90% of
teachers in both districts believed experienced administrators are very or moderately
important, for a 30:1 ratio between those believing experienced administrators are very
and moderately important and those who believe they are not important at all. Teachers
RESOURCES
Additional money for curricular and instructional materials
Not at all Somewhat
important
Moderately
important
Very
important
Fresno Need Imp. 4.4 10.5 28.6 56.4
Richmond Need Imp. 1.4 9.1 22.6 66.9
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 4.4 8.4 26.6 60.6
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 1.5 6.3 23.9 68.3
Curriculum and instructional materials aligned with state standards
Not at all Somewhat
important
Moderately
important
Very
important
Fresno Need Imp. 5.0 8.4 29.0 57.6
Richmond Need Imp. 1.7 4.7 25.5 68.1
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 4.4 9.9 31.8 53.6
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 2.2 3.4 19.0 75.4
Opportunities and planning time to collaborate with other teachers
Not at all Somewhat
important
Moderately
important
Very
important
Fresno Need Imp. 3.8 10.9 30.8 54.5
Richmond Need Imp. 2.3 5.0 25.4 67.2
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 4.0 5.4 25.4 65.2
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 0.7 6.0 24.3 69.0
Opportunities for professional development
Not at all Somewhat
important
Moderately
important
Very
important
Fresno Need Imp. 8.4 20.5 35.2 35.9
Richmond Need Imp. 1.3 6.7 34.3 57.6
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 5.4 16.2 36.8 41.5
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 3.3 10.0 25.7 61.0
Small Classes
Not at all Somewhat
important
Moderately
important
Very
important
Fresno Need Imp. 5.1 8.6 18.7 67.6
Richmond Need Imp. 2.0 10.7 20.8 66.4
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 5.4 5.4 16.3 72.8
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 4.5 7.9 19.9 67.8
40
also expressed support for having more instructional assistants on staff, with a third to
half of the teachers voicing support for more instructional assistants.
Table 33: To what extent are the following conditions important to you in
deciding whether to stay and/or teach in a school identified as in need of
improvement?
EXPERIENCED STAFF
Experienced teachers on staff
Not at all Somewhat
important
Moderately
important
Very
important
Fresno Need Imp. 7.1 14.2 34.5 44.1
Richmond Need Imp. 4.0 11.8 26.6 57.6
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 6.2 9.1 31.6 53.1
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 3.0 10.2 27.4 59.4
Experienced administrators on staff
Not at all Somewhat
important
Moderately
important
Very
important
Fresno Need Imp. 2.9 7.1 27.3 62.7
Richmond Need Imp. 2.0 4.1 21.3 72.6
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 3.3 5.4 21.4 69.9
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 1.1 3.0 17.8 78.1
Removing ineffective teachers
Not at all Somewhat
important
Moderately
important
Very
important
Fresno Need Imp. 15.9 26.7 25.6 31.8
Richmond Need Imp. 8.3 24.7 30.9 36.1
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 16.1 23.8 28.6 31.1
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 4.5 18.8 30.8 45.9
More instructional assistants
Not at all Somewhat
important
Moderately
important
Very
important
Fresno Need Imp. 16.7 22.6 27.0 33.8
Richmond Need Imp. 8.5 13.9 29.3 48.3
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 13.2 15.4 34.8 36.6
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 8.2 15.7 23.9 52.2
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers' Voice survey, questions 18b,e,q,i (Fresno) and 17b,e,q,i (Richmond).
The support teachers voiced for additional resources and experienced staff is far greater
than their support for accountability reforms as conditions important to them in deciding
whether to stay and/or teach in a school identified as in need of improvement. Teachers
did not think that the option for students to transfer to another school, for example, was
very important to them (Table 34). Over half of the teachers in Fresno and a third of the
teachers in Richmond said that transfers were not important at all. Their support for outof-
school tutoring opportunities for students was stronger, but it was about the same as
their support for rewards and public recognition for improving student performance.
Support for sanctions for poor student performance was not strong in Fresno where
41
almost half of the teachers said it was not at all important. Teachers in Richmond were
more supportive of this idea.
Table 34: To what extent are the following conditions important to you in
deciding whether to stay and/or teach in a school identified as in need of
improvement?
ACCOUNTABILITY REFORMS
The availability of out-of-school tutoring opportunities for students
Not at all Somewhat
important
Moderately
important
Very
important
Fresno Need Imp. 25.4 22 26.4 26.2
Richmond Need Imp. 8.0 17.4 37.8 36.8
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 15.7 20.4 31.8 32.1
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 8.9 20.4 34.2 36.4
Opportunities for students to transfer to other schools
Not at all Somewhat
important
Moderately
important
Very
important
Fresno Need Imp. 56.7 25.6 12.4 5.3
Richmond Need Imp. 30.7 28 22.6 18.6
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 53.3 26.1 15.1 5.5
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 35.3 26.7 25.6 12.4
Rewards for improving student performance
Not at all Somewhat
important
Moderately
important
Very
important
Fresno Need Imp. 24.1 28.5 26.6 20.9
Richmond Need Imp. 10.7 11.7 33.8 43.8
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 24.4 26.9 31.3 17.5
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 9.3 16 35.4 39.2
Public recognition for improving student performance
Not at all Somewhat
important
Moderately
important
Very
important
Fresno Need Imp. 31.9 27.1 19.7 21.2
Richmond Need Imp. 11.6 20.4 23.5 44.6
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 26.4 30.8 25.0 17.8
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 13.4 17.5 27.9 41.3
Sanctions for poor (student) performance
Not at all Somewhat
important
Moderately
important
Very
important
Fresno Need Imp. 45.3 23.8 16.7 14.2
Richmond Need Imp. 13.2 19.9 34.5 32.4
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 48.7 22.3 18.7 9.9
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 24.4 20.6 26.3 28.6
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers' Voice survey, question: 18h,j,k,n,p (Fresno) and 17h,j,k,n,p (Richmond).
Finally, teachers in both districts appeared accepting of their students and willing to work
with them regardless of their academic skills. They were fairly evenly divided on
whether having students with strong academic skills or having fewer students with weak
academic skills was important to them (Table 35). Teachers in Richmond did, however,
42
express very strong opinions about more parental involvement?over 70% of the teachers
said having parents more involved in their school was very important. These findings
suggest that teachers are willing to work with students who may be difficult to teach, but
can do so only if they have the support of parents, administrators, and their colleagues,
and only if they have the adequate resources to do the job entrusted to them.
Table 35: To what extent are the following conditions important to you in
deciding whether to stay and/or teach in a school identified as in need of
improvement?
CHARACTERISTICS OF STUDENTS/PARENTS
Students with strong academic skills
Not at all Somewhat
important
Moderately
important
Very
important
Fresno Need Imp. 21.8 33.8 23.9 20.5
Richmond Need Imp. 17.2 28.7 29.7 24.3
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 20.6 22.8 30.9 25.4
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 12.9 28.4 33.3 25.4
Fewer students with weak academic skills
Not at all Somewhat
important
Moderately
important
Very
important
Fresno Need Imp. 24.2 33.5 20.0 22.3
Richmond Need Imp. 21.6 25.3 30.4 22.6
Fresno Adeq. Prog. 25.7 28.7 24.6 21.0
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 19.4 30.6 26.1 23.9
Greater Parental Involvement
Not at all Somewhat
important
Moderately
important
Very
important
Richmond Need Imp. 2.0 9.2 18.0 70.8
Richmond Adeq. Prog. 1.9 7.1 17.1 74.0
Source: No Child Left Behind: The Teachers' Voice survey, question: 18c,g (Fresno) and 17c,g (Richmond).
Summary
When it comes to understanding what teachers think they need to improve their schools,
these findings point us in some important directions. Teachers need more resources, but
they believe these resources should be for curricular and instructional materials aligned
with state standards. They want more time to collaborate with other teachers more than
they want additional professional development time. And they want to have experienced
administrators in their schools, to work with experienced teachers, and to have more
involvement of parents. Their support for directing resources to the curriculum and for
experienced staff is far greater than their support for accountability reforms or their desire
to teach better performing students.
43
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
If No Child Left Behind is to succeed at the school level, it must take into account the
attitudes of teachers, it must avoid policies that would make teachers behave in ways that
would compound inequality over time, and it must find ways to positively engage
teachers in the complex and long-term work of school reform. The thoughtful responses
of the teachers in these districts give voice to the opinions of many teachers who are
living day to day with the implementation of NCLB in districts with exactly the kinds of
students whose problems it was supposed to solve.
The teachers appear to be telling us that strong educational reform plans are necessary,
that teachers and schools should be held accountable, within reason, for achieving
progress regardless of the problems they face, that sanctions can be an appropriate part of
the mix, and that their schools were working hard to do this before NCLB became law.
They accept the idea of accountability but believe it has been pushed too far and is being
used in a counterproductive way that narrows education and unfairly burdens schools
serving very poorly prepared students without requiring any changes in conditions that
make some schools profoundly unequal. They believe that the curriculum has been
seriously narrowed, and that there is less attention paid to those subjects not tested.
On other basic issues, they think we need more money and better materials related to the
state?s standards and an end to an excessive focus on tests that distorts and narrows the
educational process and is unfair to the schools that are struggling with the least prepared
students. They believe that good administrators play a large role in school improvement.
Many believe that the policies are pushing good teachers to leave the schools that need
them the most. Clearly there would be a preference for policies that have incentives and
rewards for schools that make progress, something that is seen as more important than
sanctions. Workable goals, an appropriate mix of carrots and sticks, better resources and
materials, and more respect and positive treatment of teachers might be the recipe for
lowering the tension over NCLB, producing a more positive, less polarized climate, and
moving things forward.
Recommendations
The teacher responses to the survey questions, and the highly consistent information we
have received in our work on our long-term, six state study, suggest the following priority
issues for consideration as NCLB continues to evolve.
Resource Allotment| We need to bring new resources to the schools, particularly those schools where
teachers have been given a mandate to rapidly improve student achievement.
There could be an immediate increase of 20% in NCLB dollars available for inschool
reforms, for example, if set-asides for supplemental educational services
and transfers were eliminated or replaced with additional appropriations. These
additional resources need to focus on better curricular and instructional materials
44
tied to the state standards and on developing coherent instructional programs that
are not constantly changing.| There is an urgent need for strong, committed, long-term leaders in schools
needing improvement -- leaders with educational vision and the ability to find and
hold a strong staff. There is nothing in NCLB to attract administrators to such
schools and much to push them in the opposite direction. This should become a
key goal in reforming schools, and districts should be encouraged to develop and
evaluate plans to reach this goal.| Parent support is seen as lacking and essential for serious reform in many high
poverty, low-performing schools. NCLB should fund serious parent outreach,
efforts to involve parents in their child?s education, and experiments in parent
training.
Teacher Support Systems| It is vitally important to increase the long-term attachment of quality teachers to
Title I schools. There should be funding for improving the working conditions in
these schools and more support for helping teachers with out-of-school problems
affecting their students. Part of this effort will doubtless involve mitigating the
extreme pressure and narrowing of the curriculum that comes with high stakes
accountability.| NCLB should facilitate teachers? strong desire for more time for school staffs to
work together to improve learning by funding the time for these efforts.| Accountability should provide rewards and explicit recognition of teachers and
schools that make high levels of progress. Negative reinforcement is producing
negative reactions, especially when teachers are working hard and making gains,
and needs to be balanced by a focus on the positive work teachers do.
Accountability Systems| It is important to continue rather than disrupt good reform programs already
under way. Many of our teachers report that there were positive, sometimes
better, reforms working with considerable success before NCLB. There should be
strong encouragement to build on successful comprehensive reform efforts.| Standardized testing should be only one part of assessing school performance and
this assessment should measure not only existing achievement levels but also the
contribution a school makes to improving student achievement. Multi-year rather
than single-year measures will be less susceptible to false negative conclusions
about schools.
45| Accountability should be continued but refocused in critical ways. Accountability
should be diagnostic. We should not have a measurement tool that takes
excessive time away from the basic activities of teaching and learning and
actually distorts the curriculum and eliminates or severely devalues other
important learning goals.
From the responses of teachers and the many written comments they added to the
surveys, it is clear that they want less focus on standardized tests, less time lost to testing
and test preparation, a broader range of subjects and skills emphasized, and analysis of
results that is based on how much progress students have made during a particular period.
We recommend that more school districts and communities survey their teachers and we
urge policymakers to listen seriously to these thoughtful voices when they consider
modifications in the law or administrative policy. We believe that what is often seen as
teacher opposition to the goals of the law is actually frustration with some of the means it
employs to induce change and that teacher perceptions are crucial parts of devising
policies and practices that move us further toward achieving the good goals of NCLB.
46
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