Key Questions:

Considering the Domains and Identifying an Area of Focus

Each school or district with reported data can find their “at a glance” survey results for each domain, or area of focus, in the summary of domain findings.  Only questions that were proven to be statistically connected to each area were included in creating the domain average.  The average is on a scale of one to five—where a one represents strong dissatisfaction with the working condition area, three is neutral, and five shows strong satisfaction.

The following questions are intended to help educators and their communities better understand this summary data.  Please consider each of these questions before moving to the next section of the analysis.

1) Are there any domains, or focus areas, in which your school's scores are significantly different than the district or the state?

The summary data includes three bars (assuming sufficient responses to report data): one for your individual school, one for your district and one for the state.  An initial way to identify areas of concern is to see where your school is different from others in the district and state.  Consider these ideas as you discuss your answer to this question:

  • Make sure the difference is both significant and meaningful.  Differences in your school domain average should be large enough to merit discussion.  A difference of hundredths and even tenths of a point is not significant enough to be confident that real differences exist between your school and others.   The differences should not only be “statistically significant,” but “meaningful” enough to be worthy of the type of resources, time and energy it would  take to develop and implement a school reform plan.  If the difference between your school and the district or state is at least .50, then there may be issues unique to the school that are worthy of discussion.
  • Look for both positives and negatives.  Positive working conditions are worth acknowledging in their own right and could be illuminating when thinking through how to address other areas of greater concern.  Why do you think teachers were more positive about this working condition domain?  Are there policies and programs that have been implemented that explain those positive working conditions areas? Could you build upon these efforts to improve other working conditions?  What did it take to build and sustain positive working conditions in this area?
  • Consider other comparisons.  It may be helpful to look at individual school reports of other schools of a similar size and student population within your district or in other surrounding districts.  Do your domain averages look similar to that school?  If not, are there differences that can be drawn upon or investigated that can help your school community? 

2) Are any of the domain averages lower than a 3.00?

Domain scores are reported on a one to five scale.  Any score lower than a 3.00 indicates that teachers, in general, had disagreement with the working conditions statements in that domain.  Any area in which teachers expressed dissatisfaction should be further analyzed and explored.  Some issues to consider include:

  • Are those dissatisfaction areas unique to your school or is this an area of concern for all schools within the district?
  • Are there multiple areas of dissatisfaction that may be related to each other?  If so, can you identify the root cause that may be driving dissatisfaction across multiple areas?
  • Is there strong dissatisfaction (1.00 or lower) or are teachers responding neutrally (between 2.50 and 3.00)?  If strong dissatisfaction exists, exploring some immediate short term strategies and long term solutions may be necessary.

3) How are results on specific domains related to school and district goals for improving teacher retention and student learning?

Not all of the domains hold equal importance to teachers in addressing decisions about where they work and whether or not the specific areas of focus or domains promote student learning.  Two survey questions ask teachers in your school specifically:

  • Which aspect of your work environment most affects your willingness to keep teaching at your school?
  • Which aspect of working conditions is most important to you in promoting student learning?

Some questions to consider in examining your individual school report:

  • Do your school's responses match the state results for questions about why teachers continue to work in the school and what they believe will help support student learning for your school?  If not, to what do you attribute the different results?  What aspects of your school community may be causing these differences in perception about which working conditions are most important to teacher retention and student results?
  • What is the general level of satisfaction on the domains that were ranked as most important by your school’s teachers with regard to continuing to teach at the school and promoting student learning?  Are these areas of concern or strengths for your school?  Are there initiatives and resources related to teacher retention that can be used to address these results or that explain positive or negative perceptions?

We hope the answers to these broad questions aid in identifying a working conditions area  to explore in greater depth.  If you have identified multiple domains as areas of concern, more thinking may be necessary to consider where to narrow in on a specific area of focus and potential reform strategies.  Consider the following:

  • What is the capacity of your community to solve problems in these identified areas?  What are the community’s strengths and how do they relate to these working conditions?  For example, time can relate to school design, instruction, and other complex matters.  Facilities and resources is a more concrete issue and may provide community members more opportunity to actively participate.
  • Is teacher retention a significant issue for your school?  Teacher attrition varies tremendously across schools.  It appears that some of the working conditions areas, particularly leadership, are more connected to attrition than others.  New  teachers are also particularly at risk for leaving the profession.  Attention to some domains is more likely to help address this critical issue, as are programs not covered in depth on the working conditions survey, including new teacher mentoring and induction.  Consider which policies help with retention and if a working conditions domain can help generate more attention and resources.
  • What other data sources can help make decisions about priority areas for improving teacher working conditions? In North Carolina, for example, school report cards issued from the state have data on teacher turnover, years of experience, education and licensure status of the school’s teaching staff, student performance, school and class size, etc.  This data can help select an appropriate area of focus, as can other documents such as the school’s No Child Left Behind plan to ensure highly qualified teachers and provide high quality professional development.  Any strategy to improve working conditions must support and align with ongoing school improvement efforts.

Next Step: After you have identified the domain(s) where you will focus your work, please use Unpacking the Domain Results to determine where your emphasis should be within those domains.


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data analysis | time | leadership | empowerment | prof development | facilities & resource