Survey: Marion County teachers not satisfied with training

Indianapolis school districts and charter schools spent more than $11 million last year on teacher training, but a new survey suggests that most teachers aren’t satisfied with it.

Only 44 percent of Marion County teachers said they were satisfied with the training offered by their school in a new survey of nearly 320 public school teachers in Marion County released this week by teacher advocacy group Teach Plus.

Just 36 percent of respondents believed training programs at their schools or districts was money well spent, and a little more than half believed the training helped improve their work.

The results of the survey weren’t surprising to Teach Plus Executive Director Caitlin Hannon, who said the responses reveal a widespread desire in teachers across Marion County schools for high-performing teachers to take the lead in training their peers.

Hannon, also a member of the Indianapolis Public School Board, remembers being frustrated by the poor training offerings during her time as an IPS teacher after being placed there by Teach for America.

“They were usually led by an administrator or a district coach,” Hannon said. “We were the ones who knew each other’s students. We were the ones on the ground every day. We had a lot of things we could have shared with each other.”

Teacher-led training was more likely to be found valuable than training by principals, district coaches or outside consulting firms by the surveyed teachers, according to the survey.

Nearly 87 percent of respondents said teacher-led training was valuable. Just over 52 percent of teachers who responded valued training from their principal. Only 33 percent found training done by an external consultant or partner to be helpful.

The organization found that school districts and independent charter schools spent $1,158 on average per teacher, according to an analysis of their expenditures on activities like in-service training, workshops and conferences. The figure is based on spending from a fund designated for training and does not include training related to curriculum development, according to Teach Plus.

IPS was near the top of the list spending the equivalent of $2,800 per teacher from dedicated training funds. Washington Township schools and Perry Township schools were at the bottom of the list, spending the equivalent of $63 and $23, respectively.

But Hannon cautioned that spending more money on training does not necessarily equal providing quality.

“The way people spend the money is different,” Hannon. “If what we know is that teachers value peer-to-peer collaboration then that can look different from spending money. Those costs are in personnel and looped into the salaries of the teachers.”

IPS teachers complained earlier this year about Superintendent Lewis Ferebee adding five extra training days to the IPS calendar. They said the training they get now often doesn’t help them improve.

“Too frequently, the target was missed, or it was the wrong target,” IPS science teacher Gail Schwoebel told Chalkbeat in February about IPS’s existing training opportunities.

Hannon said the group decided to release the survey now in hopes that its teaching fellows could work with districts and charter schools over the summer to improve before the 2015-16 school year. She said she hopes that IPS will be a part of that work.

“If we’re going to do it,” Hannon said, “let’s do it in a way that’s actually beneficial to teachers.”