Monday, July 4, 2016

A Look at the Survey Results

Happy Fourth, everyone! I’ve now had some time to dig more into the survey results, and here are my thoughts so far. Please note I am not going to dig into school specific results in this post, but try to look at the results for FCCPS generally. I compared FCCPS to Fairfax 2014, Alexandria 2012, and to two recent statewide results, North Carolina 2016 and Kentucky 2015.
There is a lot of good news here – I’ll pick a few. On average, our teachers very much believe that their school is a good place to work and learn, and with some targeted improvements, we could be exceptional. We do really well on community support and involvement. Our teachers believe that our class sizes are reasonable and allow time to focus on the needs of all students – by a margin of 15-20% more than the other school systems I checked. Our schools are clean and well-maintained. Over 99% of teachers agree that the school environment is safe – again more than any jurisdiction I checked – and in three of our schools 100% of teachers agreed. About 80% of teachers agreed that they had a role in selecting instructional materials and devising teaching techniques. And it will come as no surprise to you that our teachers think they have sufficient access to instructional technology – a whopping 98.2% agree (either agree or strongly agree) – of the other jurisdictions I compared nobody else is within 10% of Falls Church.
There are also some areas where we need to take steps to do even better:
Professional Development: We didn’t do as well as we should even before the belt-tightening the School Board did this year in the budget. I suspect that the lack of resources for professional development, along with our small size, are causing concern. To pick one example, only 54.2% of our teachers believe that sufficient resources are provided for professional development, about 25% or more below Fairfax, North Carolina, and Kentucky, and below Alexandria. The School Board needs to devote more resources to professional development in the next budget process, and if resources can be found, this year.
Time and Collaboration: Our teachers want more time to collaborate. Only 59.5% of our teachers agree they have time available to collaborate with colleagues, below other places (MEH to the contrary scored much higher on this issue). And only 63.4% of teachers agree that school leadership makes a sustained effort to address concerns about the use of time at our schools, also below many other jurisdictions (here Mt. Daniel is a positive outlier, 97.2% of teachers agreed that school leadership made a sustained effort).
Teacher Leadership: It seems to me that, excluding Mt. Daniel, we have room to improve in recognizing teachers as educational experts, relying on teachers to make decisions about educational issues, in providing in effective process for making teacher “group” decisions, and consistently addressing teacher concerns about leadership. We scored lower (by varying amounts) than the other jurisdictions I looked at, except Alexandria, in these categories.
Communications and transparency: There are a few interesting points here, but the issue that most jumped out at me is that only 34.3% of teachers agree that they have a role in deciding how the school budget will be spent. I take personal responsibility here – along with my colleagues I personally visited almost every school to talk to teachers about the budget, but it clearly wasn’t enough.
Evaluations: I believe we have room for improvement on evaluations, including assessing teacher performance objectively, providing feedback to improve teaching, and consistent evaluation procedures. Excluding Mt. Daniel, we did generally better on these measures than Alexandria but worse than Fairfax. By way of comparison, Kentucky averaged 90% of teachers agreeing with school efforts in these categories – that’s the best that I looked at – and we have room to grow to get to that point.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I’d welcome feedback and your comments at You can find the survey results at
(These are my personal views and not the official statement or records of the Board.)


  1. Thank you Phil! Wonderful to have those comparisons.

    Here are some things that jump out at me:

    Only half (55%) of teachers feel there is an appropriate level of teacher influence on decision making.

    A third feel they are not recognized as educational experts and are not trusted to make decisions about instruction or other educational issues.

    Less than two-thirds (62%) feel there is an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.

    Almost half (45%) feel they do not have an effective process for solving problems.

    Less than two-thirds (61%) feel comfortable raising issues and concerns. (Would love to have an open comment box here for explanation!)

    Almost half (44%) feel they do not have a role in school improvement planning.

    Also, low scores in professional development seem to be related to quality - their inability to choose their PD, lack of relevance to individual teacher needs, and lack of follow up or evaluation of what teachers are actually learning from their PD... In other words, a well-organized PD program with specific goals and assessments.

    You mention giving more resources to PD, and I'm sure that is needed, but it should be followed by oversight to ensure that teachers are CHOOSING their PD, that the topics are relevant, and there is feedback and evaluation.

  2. Unknown - thank you very much.

    Some of these points I mentioned in my own response. On some others, I noted the issue but I also made an effort to avoid issues where the result appeared to be school-specific rather than systemic. For example, while only 55.5% agreed that there is an appropriate level of influence in school decision-making, the result was driven primarily by one school, while two of the schools had a better percentage that the other places I compared. That same issue is presented by some of the other matters you cite. Regardless, these are all things to work on.