- Most principals — 96% — think that teachers are involved in making important decisions about their schools, but that’s far more than the 58% of teachers who feel the same way, according to a new RAND Corp. American Educator Panel survey of both teachers and school leaders.
- Principals were also significantly more likely than teachers to say that educators are comfortable voicing their concerns and have informal opportunities to influence what takes place at their school. More than 30% of teachers responding said they don’t feel comfortable sharing concerns.
- The authors suggest that principals’ positive perceptions might be based on what they’re hearing from a “small subset” of faculty members, such as teacher leaders, but that in reality teachers “might feel stifled and frustrated by a perceived lack of leadership opportunities.” It’s also possible administrators and teachers have different opinions of what ranks as an important matter on which school leaders should seek teacher input.
Teachers likely don’t want to be polled every time the bus schedule changes or the nutrition staff is considering changing the lunch menu. And they want school leaders who they can trust to keep operations running smoothly so they can focus on teaching. But surveys have shown that school climate is a leading factor in whether teachers remain at their schools. And if decisions regarding curriculum, student assignment to classrooms, teacher evaluation, assessments or other issues related to instruction need to be made, teachers want principals to value their expertise and experience.
“Don’t wait for teachers to come to you, but go to them,” the authors of a 2016 Principal magazine article wrote. “Flip the concept of an ‘open door policy’ and consider the door open for you as a principal to go out. Seek out teacher voice not just during staff meetings or through an annual survey.”
Principals with staff advisory committees may have to frequently rotate participants or ask teachers who don’t speak up during meetings to share their input by email. The RAND researchers also “encourage school leaders to critically examine the leadership opportunities they believe they are providing for their teachers and establish systems and structures that foster regular dialogue about important school decisions.”
Just as teachers use strategies in the classroom to encourage participation from students who aren’t typically likely to volunteer their opinion or ask to be the first to give a presentation, principals will likely need to use multiple methods to ensure they are hearing from a broader cross-section of teachers.