Survey: U.S. Accountability System Less Fair and Effective Compared to Other Countries

Educators who are empowered to take control of their profession tend to yield better results for their practice, students, and learning. Supporting this statement is an international report released today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which shows that teachers are the gateway to improve teaching and learning—and transform the education profession.

Dubbed TALIS for the Teaching and Learning International Survey, the report provides relevant information about working conditions and learning environments and is designed to help countries with similar data review and define policies for producing a high-quality teaching profession.

“There are ways to improve student success,” says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, “and they involve better preparation for teachers, better support in the classroom, and ensuring that all students have access to qualified teachers and great schools. To get there—at minimum—teachers should be part of the decision-making team.”

Much of the report underscores what NEA has advocated for years: educators need to have a voice at the table to help transform public education; time to teach and collaborate; and an accountability system that provides feedback and support that enhances the teaching practice and advances student learning.

OECD targeted 106,000 lower secondary (grades 7, 8, and 9) teachers and administrators, representing more than four million educators across the globe. In the U.S., 1,926 teachers and 102 principals in 122 schools participated in the survey. Key findings for the U.S. portion of the report are below.

Teacher Time: Improving student success involves ensuring access to qualified teachers who have the time to reflect on and improve their practice, collaborate with other teachers, plan classes, and work with students one on one. TALIS results indicate that for U.S. teachers, this time is not easy to find, as they work significantly more hours on average than teachers in other TALIS countries—48.8 hours per week compared to 38.3. Most of these hours are spent on teaching.

Teacher Collaboration: No one knows better what it takes to be a good teacher than another teacher. Opportunities for teachers to collaborate, such as mentoring and peer review, as well as observing each other in the classroom, provide great learning opportunities and help build a productive school climate. The report, however, shows that teachers in the U.S. were significantly more likely than the TALIS average to report never working with their colleagues in the following ways:

  • Teaching jointly: 53.7 percent of U.S. teachers reported never working together compared to 41.9 percent for the TALIS average.
  • Peer observation: 50.2 percent of U.S. teachers indicated never observing their colleagues’ classes and providing feedback compared to 44.7 percent.
  • Collaboration: 42.2 percent of U.S. teachers have never engaged in joint activities across classes or age groups versus 21.5 percent.
  • Assessments: 13.9 percent of U.S. teachers said they never worked with other teachers to ensure common standards in evaluations for assessing student progress compared to 8.8 percent.

Teacher Accountability: The idea that everything will be better if educators test students and just “hold teachers accountable” for results is unfair to students and insulting to those who devote their lives to educating students. TALIS results show that the U.S. teacher accountability system is not only unfair but that teachers are less likely to report that it leads to positive changes in their practice compared to their peers in other countries. For example, 41.5 percent of U.S teachers were less likely to report positive changes to classroom management practices versus to the TALIS average of 56.2 percent. Similarly, the teaching practice was lower than in other TALIS countries—54.4 percent compared to 62 percent.

Overall, the TALIS findings show that in nearly all countries surveyed, teachers who are involved in the decision making for their school are more likely to report teaching as being a valued profession by society, which leads to job satisfaction and teacher confidence in their own ability. While there is no silver-bullet answer to education policy, the report says that providing teachers with more leadership opportunities can be a starting point that could benefit the teaching profession, job satisfaction, confidence, and the school community.

TALIS was first administered in 2008 in 24 countries (the U.S. did not participate). Thirty-four countries and educational systems, including the U.S., participated in TALIS 2013. The survey focused on teachers’ working conditions and learning environments. The survey also examined teacher preparation and induction; professional development; appraisal and feedback; school climate and leadership; and teachers’ instructional beliefs and practices.

Read the full TALIS 2013 report.