News 2013: Fall River Chamber of Commerce Education Committee Releases Survey of Fall River Teachers

News 2013: Fall River Chamber of Commerce Education Committee Releases Survey of Fall River Teachers
Fall River Chamber of Commerce Education Committee Releases Survey of Fall River Teachers

Teacher's Views on Parents, Curriculum, and Career and College Readiness Analyzed by UMass Dartmouth Department of Public Policy

The Fall River Chamber of Commerce's Education Committee released the findings of an analysis of the attitudes of Fall River Public Schools (FRPS) teachers conducted by UMass Dartmouth's Department of Public Policy and in collaboration with the university's Urban Initiative. The semester long study was done as part of UMass Dartmouth Public Policy students' Graduate Seminar in Policy Analysis. 

"The major findings of this research suggest that there is work to be done to better align the activities of the Fall River Public Schools with the aspirations of its community and leaders," noted Dr. Michael D. Goodman, Associate Professor and Chair of UMass Dartmouth's Department of Public Policy. "The challenges that are highlighted in our research findings are not unique to the Fall River Public Schools, but are very similar to the difficulties facing urban districts across the country." 

This analysis was based on a survey completed by a representative sample of 174 teachers between April and May 2013. 

Among the findings: 

* Teachers feel their students are better prepared for both college and career when it comes to mastery of subject areas tested by MCAS as compared to areas like civics, global awareness, and critical thinking. 
* While a strong majority of teachers report trying to understand parents' problems and concerns, a clear majority of teachers report feeling unsupported by parents. 
* Teachers expect most FRPS students to graduate from high school, but they also expect that many graduates will need remedial coursework upon entering college. 
* Just over 1 in 2 teachers (51.1%) would not send their own child to the school where they teach; just under 6 in 10 teachers (57.7%) who do not live in the city felt similarly. 

The project was conducted in partnership with the Urban Initiative, an effort that aims to strengthen nearby cities by conducting research, building the capacity of community partners, and facilitating an informed conversation about urban policy. 

"The research literature strongly suggests that teacher expectations for their students are very important to both student and school outcomes," noted Colleen Dawicki, Project Manager at the UMass Dartmouth Urban Initiative.  "Numerous studies and the experience of other urban school districts across the nation indicate that strong relationships between schools and the communities they serve are one of several elements that are essential to educational success in urban settings." 

The survey was conducted at the request of the Fall River Chamber of Commerce's Education Committee, which was formed in recognition of the importance of education to economic growth. The committee seeks to promote education and encourage others to join in recognizing its importance to the broader community. 

"UMass Dartmouth's -- and specifically Professor Goodman's Department of Public Policy's -- participation was absolutely essential in helping us understand the teacher's thoughts concerning their students, parents, and community.  We understand that the right message, based upon accurate information, can play a pivotal role in the success of a marketing campaign," said Nicholas Christ, President and CEO, BayCoast Bank and Chairman of the Education Committee of the Fall River Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "Professor Goodman and his students' effort was priceless.  More broadly, the Chamber and the City of Fall River owe a great thank you to the University and its commitment to engagement, which has best been demonstrated by the Department of Public Policy." 

The analysis was conducted with the cooperation of the Fall River Public Schools (FRPS) and the Fall River Educator's Association (FREA). 

"Fall River's teachers are dedicated to providing a quality education to all students. Their standards and expectations are very high. The survey results are reflective of the complex challenges of teaching in an urban district," said FREA President Rebecca Cusick. "Large class sizes, inadequate funding and inconsistent parental support leave educators feeling that students are not always learning under the most ideal conditions. We know parental involvement is key to a successful school experience. We welcome the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with our students' families." 

A summary of the major findings of this analysis can be found here:

The Department of Public Policy is an interdisciplinary academic department based in the College of Arts and Sciences.  The Department offers its students a wide variety of graduate educational options including a traditional face-to-face and fully online Masters in Public Policy (MPP) program, online graduate certificates in environmental policy and educational policy, and a joint JD/MPP program in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts School of Law.  All of the Department's programs of study center around courses that emphasize the development of policy analysis, applied research, and public management skills. 

For more information, please contact: 

Michael D. Goodman, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Public Policy
Cell: 617.823.2770

Colleen Dawicki, Project Manager 
UMass Dartmouth Urban Initiative 
Work: (508) 910-6407