Over 80% of Hamilton County teachers are satisfied with their jobs, according to state survey

Over 80% of Hamilton County teachers are satisfied with their jobs, according to state survey

August 22nd, 2019 by Meghan Mangrum in Local Regional News

Catherine Casselman, a second grade teacher at East Side Elementary, Brenda Morris, a kindergarten teacher at Dupont Elementary, Tabitha Beck Christy, a third grade teacher at Red Bank Elementary, and Kayla Bowman, a kindergarten teacher at Daisy Elementary, participate in a panel discussion during the Hamilton County Schools New Teacher Academy held at Hixson Middle School on Monday, July 22, 2019 in Hixson, Tennessee. The panel was held for first-year teachers to be able to ask questions of more experienced teachers.

Catherine Casselman, a second grade teacher at East...

Photo by Erin O. Smith

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Read the 2019 Tennessee Educator Survey or review data for your school or district at educatorsurvey.tnk12.gov/

An increasing number of Hamilton County Schools teachers are satisfied with their jobs and their schools, but system-wide satisfaction lags behind that of other systems across the state, according to data released Thursday by the Tennessee Department of Education and the Tennessee Education Research Alliance at Vanderbilt University.

The 2019 Tennessee Educator Survey says about 86% of teachers in Hamilton County said they were "generally satisfied with being a teacher in [their] school" — up from 84% in 2018. Statewide, it's 90%.

Meanwhile, Hamilton County teachers were not alone in their dissatisfaction with the amount of planning time they have and how administrators handle discipline in some schools.

This year's survey found that 70% of teachers report spending more than four hours per week creating or sourcing instructional materials, but only about half of teachers said their individual and collaborative planning time is enough.

Erin O'Hara, executive director of the Tennessee Education Research Alliance, said teachers are generally satisfied, but notes that there seems to be a relationship between how teachers feel about planning time and how student discipline is handled in their school.

"The lessons for school leaders reflect this: Teachers are saying, 'The amount of time I have is important. It's also important that I am able to go to my leader with concerns,'" O'Hara said. "When those things are happening, teachers are more satisfied."

And teachers who are more satisfied are more likely to stay.

Teacher retention has been an increased focus for not only Hamilton County, but school districts across the state and country. In Hamilton County, teacher retention decreased slightly from 2018 to 2019, despite more early career teachers staying in the classroom.

District leaders have guessed that some teachers are leaving the classroom altogether, but other more experienced teachers are leaving Hamilton County for better-paying positions in nearby Bradley County, Cleveland city and North Georgia school districts.

Discipline and social-emotional supports have also been debated in Hamilton County in recent months. Teachers went without a 2.5% pay hike for the 2019-20 school year so the district could instead invest in additional resources for teachers like school counselors and reading interventionists.

About 68% of Hamilton County teachers who completed the survey said leadership in their school effectively handles student discipline and behavior problems.

The choice between a pay hike and increased supports was tense throughout this year's budget cycle and many teacher said they felt pitted against their own needs and their students.

School board member Rhonda Thurman, of District 1, has consistently — and adamantly — argued that discipline problems are the biggest reason why teachers leave Hamilton County or are unhappy in their schools.

Under Johnson's leadership, the district recently adopted a revamped 'Code of Acceptable Behavior and Discipline' for students that is being slowly rolled out this year. Board members have called for consistency and support as principals adjust to the new code, which many teachers support.

More than 45,000 educators, or about 62% of educators, across the state completed this year's survey, according to a press release from the state education department.

O'Hara said she hopes that this all-time participation rate indicates that teachers are finding power in their voice.

"We are excited about is the percentage of educators responding this year, it's the highest that we've had," she said. "Hopefully that says something about how educators feel that using their voice results in conversations at the school, district and state level. When teachers are saying these things matter to us, hopefully they are seeing that become part of the conversation."

The education department shares information gathered from the survey with districts and local leaders to help inform decision-making, align resources and maximize teachers' effectiveness in the classroom, according to a press release.

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

Teacher response data is aggregated at the state, district and school level depending on participation rates. Survey responses are only available if 45% or more of the district or school's teachers responded to particular areas of the survey.

In Hamilton County, 61% of teachers and 55% of administrators participated in the survey.

Contact Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.