A recent Gallup poll investigated how engaged todays high school student are. The results were in some ways comforting. Students are looking for teachers who make them feel exited about the future and schools that are committed to their individual strengths. The poll assessed feelings about friendships, a feeling of safety and praise for good work. In response to these questions, researchers concluded that 55% of the student surveyed were actively engaged in their schools and school work.
The most exciting things about these data is that there is a high correlation between feeling engaged and being a successful learner. The downside is that the increased emphasis on test scores and higher standards can force teachers to neglect individual needs in favor of boosting those scores.
But here is the really sad news. Among the general public, a different Gallup poll found that 30% of workers feel engaged in their work. One might think that teachers would be even more engaged given what they do and the importance of their sense of engagement to kids' learning. Unfortunately that is not the case. Teachers were polled at 31% as engaged in their work. This difference is not even a statistical difference. What is really bad, is that of ALL the occupations surveyed teachers fell dead last when it came to feeling that their opinions mattered at work. And given recent events their feelings are probably an accurate impression or reality.
There is a serious disconnect here. As a nation we need students to feel engaged. We need them to be high achievers and we know that engagement correlates to high achievement. Right now we think that test scores measure high achievement. Hence teachers are pushed to ensure high achievement on test scores. Their teaching is even evaluated by the test scores.
On the other hand, we are cutting teachers out of all the important stuff. We have allowed people who do not teach, have not a clue HOW to teach, to make the rules of engagement for those who are teaching and know how to do it. Why don't the teachers' unions take up this call for teacher empowerment and lay off of salaries and benefits for just a few minutes.