The 2017 results of TennesseeCAN’s annual survey of school leaders from across the state shed important insight on top education issues.

Following this week’s earlier release of results of a statewide survey of district leaders, today TennesseeCAN released the 2017 results of a statewide survey of K-12 school principals, painting a clear picture of school leaders’ perspectives on school- and classroom-level factors affecting student success.

“Day in and day out, school leaders make decisions and allocate limited resources in order to best address student and teacher needs, and sharing their experiences and input with elected officials helps develop strong education policies,” said Charlie Bufalino, Director of Policy and Strategy at TennesseeCAN. “These survey results point to several innovative ideas that could potentially help improve student outcomes.”

Having a high-quality teacher is the most important in-school factor in determining a student’s academic success. Research shows that a student can lose more than seven months of learning when stuck in an ineffective classroom for two consecutive years – and may never catch up to their peers after three consecutive years.

Luckily, 77% of school leaders consider the effectiveness of the teacher/classroom the student had the previous year when assigning students to classrooms for the upcoming school year, but 16% do not consider it at all. While a majority of school leaders (80%) consider the student’s individual achievement levels from the previous year, 14% do not. Policies to consider these factors in student placement strategies may help boost academic success.

Increased instructional time is another area where school leaders provided interesting insight.

A majority of principals (63%) believe teachers and schools do not have enough time in the school day to meet the needs of students, and 53% believe there is not enough time in the school year. Also, a majority (59%) would support an extended school day or school year if given the necessary resources and state support.

This year, TennesseeCAN saw record participation of principals—an increase of nearly 7% from 2016. Surveys were administered in late July/early August 2017 via emailed survey to all current Tennessee Directors of Schools.

Full survey results are posted on the TennesseeCAN website:


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