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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Update on TELL Mass 2012 - Statewide Teaching Conditions Survey

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
June 15, 2012


Through Race to the Top, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education sponsored the 2012 statewide teaching conditions survey, TELL Mass (Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning in Massachusetts), as part of our plan to strengthen school climate, conditions, and culture. The purpose of the survey was to gather educators' perspective on working conditions in their schools, including issues such as available time, facilities, resources, community engagement and support, and instructional practices. The online survey was voluntary, confidential and anonymous.


The survey was made available to all school-based licensed educators in public schools in the Commonwealth, including charter schools, from March 12-April 13, 2012. By the time the survey closed, 42,404 school-based licensed educators (52%) had responded, including 37,500 teachers, 751 principals, 532 assistant principals, and 3,600 other educators.

Overall educators are positive about teaching conditions in Massachusetts and in their schools. They perceive community and parent/guardian engagement positively. They also are positive about the instructional supports and practices in their schools. One area that we will be reviewing is professional development. Seventy percent of educators who responded agree that the professional development they receive helps them differentiate instruction and about 66% agree that it helps students learn. However, less than 50% of respondents report receiving professional development based on their individual needs or receiving follow-up on the professional development provided.

Educators had the opportunity to identify areas where they believe they need additional professional development, including in the following areas:

  • New Massachusetts curriculum frameworks based on Common Core Standards (68%)
  • Integrating technology into instruction (67%)
  • Closing the achievement gap (63%)
  • Teaching students with disabilities (60%)
  • Teaching gifted and talented students (60%)
  • Differentiating instruction (55%)
  • Educator's particular content area (53%)
  • Separating learning needs from a disability in culturally and linguistically diverse students (53%)
  • Teaching English language learners (52%)

Educators are positive about school leadership - 91% agree that they are held to high professional standards for delivering instruction and 87% agree that school leadership facilitates using data to improve instruction. They also agreed that teacher performance is assessed objectively (81%), and that the feedback they receive helps them improve their teaching (77%).

When asked for a key factor influencing their decision to remain in the classroom or not, 23% of teachers identified school leadership, 21% identified instructional practices, and 15% identified time as the key factor in their decision to remain in the classroom.

Three-quarters (75%) of the respondents agreed that teachers are effective leaders in the school, while fewer (58%) agreed there is an effective process in their school for collaborative decision-making to solve problems. Teachers reported having a moderate to large role in decisions such as selecting instructional materials and resources, devising teaching techniques, and setting grading and student assessment practices, whereas over 50% of the teachers reported having less of a role in determining inservice professional development and in selecting new teachers for the school.

Next Steps

The state level data are publicly available on the TELL Mass website. A report on initial findings is enclosed and also posted online. School and district data are pass code protected until July 1st. The Department has sent pass codes to each school principal and superintendent with schools that met the 50% minimum participation rate. These codes were also sent to the unions to share with their local presidents. The Department asked superintendents to share the information with their school committee chair.

All school and district leaders were encouraged to convene a working group of diverse stakeholders, including teachers, to begin analyzing the data and prepare an action plan to address at least one issue arising from the data during the upcoming academic school year. This action plan can be woven into the school improvement plan. Race to the Top districts are required to convene a working group. Only 21 RTTT districts will not receive TELLS data to inform this action planning.

Over the next several months, the Department will continue working with our vendor, New Teacher Center, to disaggregate the data by various subgroups and conduct analyses using additional data such as MCAS scores and teacher turnover. We expect to receive a final report in November 2012.


Last Updated: June 20, 2012
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