An anonymous survey of New Mexico teachers that was aimed at improving the schools where they teach has attracted only a small minority of respondents – even after the deadline to participate was extended by more than three weeks.
With Monday’s deadline rapidly approaching, the response rate late Friday was just under 12 percent, a far cry from the 50 percent officials said was required before data from particular schools could be used.
The Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning (TELL) New Mexico Survey was intended to document and analyze how teachers and other educators view conditions at their schools. The results were to provide policy makers with data to use in improving student achievement and teacher retention rates.
Originally, teachers were asked to respond to the half-hour online survey by Feb. 21. When only a handful of teachers responded, the deadline was extended to Monday.
University of New Mexico Provost Chaouki Abdallah is among the policy makers who had hoped to draw from the survey results. Last year, he assembled a broad panel of educators, union leaders and government officials as TELL New Mexico partners to help reformulate UNM’s College of Education.
The partners include the New Mexico Public Education Department, the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico and the Bureau of Indian Education.
In announcing the survey in January, Abdallah said the results would “inform how we can best prepare classroom teachers and school leaders.”
On Friday, asked to comment on why it had failed, he said: “I have no idea. Some people told me it was too long. Others said they were too busy with legislative session. Some said they didn’t know about it or didn’t receive information about it. But I really have no idea.”
He also downplayed the survey’s importance to efforts aimed at revamping the College of Education. Initially, he said, the TELL New Mexico partners thought it would supply more information about individual teachers, particularly those trained at UNM.
“But after talking more with the New Teacher Center, we learned it is more about teaching conditions at particular schools,” Abdallah said.
Information gathered by the survey would be more helpful to the state or to teachers themselves, he said.
The New Teacher Center is a national nonprofit that put together the TELL New Mexico Survey.
Eric Hirsch, the New Teacher Center officer who oversees its TELL surveys, conceded that it was disappointing – and the lowest response rate the organization has received. Since 2008, TELL surveys have been conducted in 15 states and 27 school districts, with more than a million responses.
“It’s true that we had hoped for a greater response, and we did set a 50 percent threshold,” he said. “But we have heard from 4,000 New Mexico educators about conditions they have in their schools.”
The center now has to determine how representative the responses are, he added.
Ellen Bernstein, president of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, said TELL surveys in other parts of the country have been significant. The problem in New Mexico is probably “timing and implementation, and that includes communication issues,” she said, adding that teachers are overwhelmed by ever-increasing workloads.