ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas County public school teachers feel overworked, students are overtested and the district is unprepared to bring the new Florida Standards into classrooms next year, according to comments in a school climate survey.
The school district released comments this week from the 5,193 employees who responded to the voluntary survey in March, which is meant to provide administrators anonymous feedback from schools.
The survey was sent to 13,778 school-based employees, and the 37.7 percent response rate was higher than last year’s 32 percent. About 95 percent of respondents said they believe the “staff works hard to help all students meet high expectations,” and 94 percent said “students develop positive relationships with staff in this school.”
However, a majority also said the school district hasn’t adequately prepared teachers for the Florida Standards curriculum, the education benchmarks based on the nationwide Common Core State Standards to make students practice more reading and writing in all grade levels.
With the new education standards comes a new standardized test to replace the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test next school year. Students this year took the FCAT while learning curriculum aligned with the new standards.
Common Core was mentioned by at least 240 respondents in the optional comments section of the survey. Testing came up in 353 comments.
“Teachers’ questions about common core and testing have gone unanswered. TOO MUCH TESTING. I am testing more than teaching,” wrote one teacher at Curtis Fundamental Elementary in Dunedin, which has received A grades from the state since 2000. “This is the kind of work environment that makes good teachers quit!!!”
“Malcontented year. Too much testing and training. Trainers not well-informed. Core connections don’t align with Pinellas coaches,” wrote a teacher at Brooker Creek Elementary in Tarpon Springs, a B school. “Primary students need to write from their hearts, not to research-based prompts, nor in constant response to reading. Don’t kill the love of writing.”
Third-grade students at Bay Vista Fundamental Elementary in St. Petersburg have had five weeks of district-level testing, wrote one teacher. A teacher from McMullen Booth Elementary in Clearwater said they would have tested students 79 days this year between district testing, English Language Arts tests, Florida’s Comprehensive English Language Learning Assessment, the FCAT and SAT 10 practice tests.
School board member Terry Krassner said adequate technology and testing were her biggest concerns after going through the comments.
“I know next year we’re going to get off to a much better start. We’re not going to have something thrown at us in the middle of summer that we have to put in place by August,” Krassner said.
Last summer, the state Department of Education offered voluntary two-day training sessions on Common Core in Pinellas, and the school district offered its own supplemental workshops. This summer, the school district has created a 34-page matrix of professional development workshops teachers can take over the summer, ranging from a few hours to weeklong sessions. Superintendent Michael Grego said the workshop planning is “great growth from where we were last summer.”
The survey also showed a wide range in levels of satisfaction among district employees. At James B. Sanderlin Elementary, a C school, the 23 respondents said they feel 100 percent supported in their jobs and agreed 100 percent with the statement: “Overall, I am satisfied with my job.” Meanwhile, of the 29 respondents at McMullen Booth Elementary, a B school, only 51.8 percent said they were satisfied with their jobs, and 43 percent said they felt supported, the lowest satisfaction rates of all schools.