Supt: Polk uses different model to survey teachers

Published 1:01 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Superintendent Bill Miller says Polk County Schools doesnt need a state survey to learn about the concerns of teachers in the district.

While the states annual teacher survey, released at the end of the school year, provides some helpful insight, Miller says its probably better suited for much larger districts.

Polk County Schools is small enough, says Miller, that principals and even central office administrators can have frequent contact with teachers to hear their concerns.

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If, for instance, we had a missing technical component, we wouldnt find out about it at the end of the year through the survey, says Miller. We would hear about it during the school year.

Miller says administrators, and particularly the principals in each school, make a point of talking with teachers and staff on a daily basis, and he believes teachers feel free to come to them with concerns.

I feel like we have more on-the-ground, live contact with the classrooms and a feel of whats going on, says Miller. Thats only doable because we have community schools, because of the size that we are are and because were interacting with teachers as much as we are.”

He adds that Polk County Schools doesnt conduct parent surveys for the same reason. The school system, he says,&bsp; regularly talks with parents and students and works to address their concerns.

For us the dropout rate isnt a percentage in a report, its the 25 families we are talking with and those students we are working to keep in school, says Miller.

Polk Assistant Supt. Dr. Mary Margaret Ingle says when shes out visiting the schools and talking with staff, shell hear students sometimes ask, Wheres Bill?

They know him by name, she says, and are accustomed to seeing him often.

Ingle adds that each school in the district has a school improvement team, which regularly address issues and meets at the end of the school year to review progress on specific goals.

Both Ingle and Miller say they are pleased the state survey shows Polk teachers generally feel they have more support, better resources and more instructional time than teachers in many other districts in the state.

Ingle says the central office and principals try to handle whatever paperwork they can for teachers to give them more time in the classroom.

Miller adds that some, larger districts have their own internal paperwork and assessment testing, in addition to state and federal requirements. Those districts may test as often as every few weeks to see if students are exactly where they should be in the prescribed curriculum for each subject.

That can leave much less time for instruction, says Miller, although he acknowledges larger districts face different challenges to ensure students are getting the instruction they need.

Ingle says teachers who come here from other districts often remark about how much more support teachers have here.

Paperwork has increased so much in the last 10 to 15 years, says Ingle. Our goal is to take more of the paperwork because the teachers job is to help the students and teach.