Teachers Being Asked to "Take 20"

Montgomery - From January 22 until February 15, 2008, all certified education personnel in the state of Alabama are being asked to "Take 20."

Take 20 minutes out of their day to participate in a historic, statewide, on-line survey - voice their opinions, and make a difference in Alabama education.

In an unprecedented display of solidarity, proponents of education statewide have banded together to find out what teacher's perceptions are of their teaching and working conditions.

Officials from the Governor Bob Riley's office, Alabama Department of Education, Alabama Education Association (AEA), A-Plus, Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB), Alabama School Board Association (ASBA), the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS) have all endorsed the totally anonymous on-line survey dubbed, "Take 20: Alabama Teaching and Learning Conditions Survey."

The effort is being spearheaded by the Teacher Working Conditions subcommittee of Governor Riley's Commission on Quality Teaching (GCQT).

The subcommittee is focused on identifying objective opinions on the strengths and weaknesses teachers face in their work environment.

This information will be used to improve working conditions, increase recruitment and retention of quality teachers and ultimately - improve the educational experience for all students.

The survey, which is accessible at http://www.take20alabama.org/ to all certified personnel, will be available 24 hours a day seven days a week.

Each person who qualifies will be given an access code to log on to the survey and take it with complete anonymity.

Tony Thacker, project administrator for the GCQT, said the honest, objective, opinions of Alabama teachers is what's needed to address the core concerns in classrooms.

"If you want to find out the most legitimate data regarding the teaching and learning conditions in our schools, then we really need to go to the individuals who spend their entire professional life in those conditions," Thacker said.

"We can make decisions based on inferences that we get, but we will make much better decisions based on objective data."

Thacker said this will provide education stakeholders with the kind of information needed to address the concerns of school-based practitioners.

He said the survey will consist of several domains including professional development and time management, and the GCQT will use the survey results to determine which aspects of the working conditions have the greatest impact on the teacher's decision to remain in the profession or leave.

With a survey of this magnitude it was important to approach teachers, principals and other certified personnel as a united front, with the understanding that no one group is attempting to use the data from this survey to push their individual agenda.

The data extracted form this survey is purely intended to help better understand the perspective of Alabama educators.

Susan Salter, director of membership services for the Alabama Association of School Boards, said the collaborative spirit that all of the educational organizations involved brought to the table makes evident the importance of the Take 20 survey.

"It's just a very broad-based group of organizations that have come together because we all believe that this data is so important," Salter said.

She said in addition to the statewide study, each school that has a participation rate of 50 percent will receive an individual report that can be used to address issues at the local level.

The idea, Salter said, is that if teacher's working conditions can be changed in ways that makes them more effective, more productive and better equipped to deal with their challenges, ultimately it will have a positive effect on student achievement.