TULSA, Okla. - Tulsa Public Schools released the results of a recent survey of nearly 1,400 teachers, principals and support staff about their perceptions related to school safety and discipline and the potential effect on student achievement in the classroom.
About 76 percent of TPS educators who participated said that most discipline problems in their school are caused by a small number of students. The number of students with serious chronic behavior or conduct problems per class most frequently ranged from 2-4 students.
Teachers and principals claiming few students with chronic behavior problems most often attributed it to: strong relationships with students (59.6 percent); high expectations (58.2 percent); consistent treatment of students (52.4 percent); classroom rules clearly posted (40.2 percent); and supportive principal and staff (34.5 percent).
“Teacher and leader effectiveness has gone a long way toward ensuring that we have the best teachers in TPS classrooms and the most effective leadership in our schools,” said Dr. Keith Ballard, superintendent. “However, we also recognize there are barriers to student success. Anecdotally, teachers know that student misbehavior can be a major distraction in the classroom and take valuable time away from students who are focused on learning. This survey has provided us with valuable feedback on teacher and principal perceptions of the environment in their school and in the classroom. I am encouraged by the fact that our teachers generally feel supported and empowered by the leadership in their buildings. By making some adjustments in how we respond to a handful of students with chronic behavior issues, we have an opportunity to positively impact student achievement.”
Other survey findings include:
- 50.6 percent of staff said crowded classrooms and hallways are a factor in causing discipline problems at school, an average rating of 3.58 on a 5-point scale with "4" representing "often."
- When asked to rate the frequency of discipline problems, it was generally perceived that discipline issues occurred more frequently in the general school population versus the respondents' own classroom.
FREQUENCY OF DISCIPLINE ISSUES/Staff perceptions
Discipline issue/type Occurs in Own Classroom Occurs in School
Defiance/non-compliance 43.5% 59.3%
Dress code violations 37.2% 49.5%
Profanity 28.7% 45.9%
Student cliques 23.1% 30.4%
Bullying 21.4% 35.3%
Skipping class 16.7% 22.2%
Destruction of school property 12.3% 20.5%
Stealing 12.1% 21.2%
Physical fighting 9.6% 25.1%
- 41.1 percent of respondents said too much class time is spent on discipline.
- Overall, 62.3 percent of TPS educators said they are "okay" and "having normal challenges" with behavior management. Nearly 18 percent said they are having "ongoing difficulties" and 5.4 percent said, "I'm exhausted and we have serious problems."
- 45.3 percent said more student suspensions are needed, with 21.3 percent saying they disagree and 24.6 percent being "neutral" or not sure.
- Most educators – 72.5 percent – said they have a written discipline plan with stated expectations and consequences. (Fewer than 3 percent said they have no plan).
- Teachers and staff feel somewhat limited in their ability to affect change, with an average rating of 3.11 (just slightly above "neutral" on a 5-point scale). About 42 percent feel empowered to affect change given the current structures in place.
- Reaction was mixed on the ability to remove disruptive students from class. 45.2 percent said they have the ability to remove disruptive students, however, 37 percent said they did not.
- About 52 percent of TPS staff said they have sufficient authority with administrative support to implement effective discipline in their classrooms or work areas, and 56 percent say staff roles are clearly defined concerning student discipline.
- 44.2 percent said student discipline polices are administered consistently at their school (an average rating of 3.23).
- 51.3 percent said there is good communication between the staff and administration concerning student discipline.
- 41.3 percent said they receive feedback from their principal on discipline referrals.
- TPS teachers and staff were lukewarm in their rating of parental involvement in their children's education, with 30.4 percent saying "never" or "rarely" involved and 44 percent saying "sometimes" involved.
- 52.3 percent said most parents have given the school the responsibility for disciplining their children (an average score of 3.78 on a five-point scale).
- Only 34 percent of educators said the school and home collaborate together in order to meet students' behavioral needs, with the majority – 43.4 percent – saying they "sometimes" get parents' help.
- 80.2 percent are satisfied with their own behavior management skills, and 77 percent feel they are adequately trained to manage their present classroom environment.
- 40.3 percent said more training is needed on the importance of respecting other cultures/ethnicities (an average rating of 3.34 on a five-point scale).
- 47.7 percent said teachers need more training on how to recognize potential discipline problems.
- 70.9 percent recommended that students be required to attend classes on building character and conflict resolution.
- When asked to prioritize 13 actions the district could take to support a positive school climate, the top five choices were as follows: 1) cultural competency training for TPS staff; 2) more community schools; 3) student awards for improved attendance; 4) more anti-bullying training for students and teachers; and 5) more behavior management training for teachers.
“I am quite pleased with the information we collected from nearly 1,400 teachers, principals and support staff in the district,” said Dr. Phyllis Lovett, associate superintendent of elementary schools and co-chair of the School Safety & Discipline Committee that commissioned the survey. “We have come up with a preliminary list of recommendations, some which are short-term and others that are more long-term and may require funding. I believe our district has a moral responsibility to remove behavior distractions so all of our children can reach their full potential.”
The survey was conducted from Jan. 14-25, 2013, with 1,391 teachers, principals, other certified and support staff participating. Nearly 1,400 teachers, principals, certified and support staff -- 1,391 respondents in all -- participated in the survey that included 35 questions. About 84 percent of the participants were teachers; 10.6 percent were "other certified staff"; 3 percent were uncertified support staff; and 2.7 percent were principals. There was good representation among all grade levels, both primary and secondary. The majority of respondents had class sizes ranging from 20-24 students (33.5 percent) and 25-29 students (26.0 percent). Thirty-eight percent of respondents have worked 16 years or more in education, 26.3 percent from 5-10 years, 18.8 percent from 11-15 years, 10.6 percent from 2-4 years and 6 percent were first-year teachers.
A complete copy of the survey results may be found here.