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The No. 1 concern of teachers may not be what you think

Updated: Sep 12, 2019

During the past year, we’ve been busy building a better way to look at data from our staff engagement surveys. Our new approach not only reports how a school district’s staff feels about a variety of issues, but also compares how each school district performs when compared to districts around the state and nation.

This comparison can tell us a number of things. The biggest change is that we now can show districts on a percentile basis where their district ranks compared to others on their staff assessment of our 12 indexes, which assess a range of issues, from culture and workload to trust in building leadership and technology. Our new approach really broadens the results for administrators in seeing how their district performs internally as well as on a much more macro level.

A closer glimpse at the aggregate data from all districts also gives School Perceptions a remarkably and statistically accurate look at how staff, particularly teachers, feel about certain issues that can affect their overall engagement. We know from working with thousands of schools throughout the state and nation that high staff engagement results in strong student engagement, which is a top factor in overall student achievement.

But when we look at the data, we now know what the No. 1 hot button is for teachers in Wisconsin schools. Can you guess what it is?

Give yourself a couple of tries, because you probably won’t guess it.

It’s not compensation. It’s not whether or not they feel safe at school. It’s not even feeling valued in the workplace.

It’s whether or not student discipline is handled in a consistent manner.

Not only is it the lowest ranked item in our survey for teachers, it’s also the lowest for educational specialists, aides, office staff and custodians in our schools.

Teachers give consistent school discipline the lowest marks in School Perceptions' staff engagement surveys.

On a five-point scale, the school employees who took the School Perceptions staff survey during the past year gave “Student discipline is handled in a consistent manner by all staff” an average grade of 2.65.

Let’s look at the good news first. That’s not a failing grade, far from it. In fact, we believe that a score of 3.0 indicates a strength in a district. But when compared to other elements in the educational workplace and in districts of all sizes, consistency in student discipline, well … consistently receives the lowest score.

There are definitely ways for districts to address this concern: providing additional resources to staff that are struggling, adding additional efforts to support the transition to the PBIS model of discipline, even reviewing whether the methods used are actually consistent. And if they are consistent, why does staff share the view that they are not? Is perception reality?

There’s a lot of research out there on student discipline and unfortunately, it’s necessary research. The American Institutes for Research (, one of the world’s largest, independent social science research organizations, reports that American secondary schools suspend “two million students each year, mostly for non-violent offenses such as disruption, disrespect, tardiness and dress code violations.” Further research has shown a link between students receiving expulsions and suspensions and future negative consequences, such as being held back a grade, dropping out of school and issues with the juvenile justice system, notes the AIR. It’s an issue that all districts encounter and must address.

For more information on how to implement a staff engagement survey in your district, call us at 262.644.4300 or email And watch for our next post, in which we reveal what received the most positive score on our staff surveys.


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