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Friday, August 31, 2012

Teacher Evaluation and Preparation: Let’s Flip the Priorities

by Connie Rath, Dean, Gallup Education

Four key findings from the 2012 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll reveal what Americans think about the nation’s teachers and the system for evaluating them:

  • Three of four Americans say they have trust and confidence in the men and women who teach in the public schools, for the third year in a row.
  • More than 40% of Americans describe the teacher who had the most influence in their lives with words such as caring, compassionate, motivating, and inspiring, while just 17% use words like intelligent, knowledgeable, persistent, hard-working, and demanding.
  • Americans are divided on whether states should require teacher evaluations to include how well a teacher’s students perform on standardized tests.
  • Americans support more rigorous entrance requirements into college-based teacher preparation programs.
When Americans look back on what shaped their lives, they often think of the caring people who helped them along the way -- many of whom were teachers. Few Americans see a strong relationship between test results and who they themselves have become or who they want their children to become. They want more teachers like those who positively influenced them.

We need to flip priorities in education. We need to focus on hiring and developing caring, passionate teachers who help students see their future instead of putting teachers in classrooms just to achieve certain test score outcomes.

Start by identifying at an early age the people with the caring capacity to teach. Set up these innately talented individuals for success by giving them opportunities to mentor and tutor younger students. Let these potential teachers test their effectiveness by the changes they see in the students they mentor -- an increase in their math skills or an improvement in their problem-solving or social skills. And encourage them to go to a college of education that provides more practice and feedback before they enter the workforce.

Then, schools need to hire and develop caring educators -- and broaden how they evaluate these teachers. Schools should include measures that credit student progress in a career interest, a subject specialization, or attainment of their personal goals, in addition to academic gains.

The common evaluation factor should be student growth. No teacher can be judged to be effective without evidence of student growth and performance. Americans may come to agree that standardized tests are a way to know how well a child, a school, and a nation compare. But they want to know first that the children they care about have other caring adults who know them well and help them get better at something -- or many things -- every day. A great caring teacher will always have a long list of students he or she helped along the way, each of whom will have numerous success stories associated with them.

Getting more great teachers in place will take three key strategies:

  1. Support the teachers we admire. Recognize them for their contribution. Evaluate them by a variety of student successes -- beyond just test scores.
  2. Identify teaching talent early. Select first for caring talent and provide significant experience to boost skills and potential impact.
  3. Take students’ views into account. Score each school on not just the academic gains it makes, but also on students’ perceptions of their readiness for the future.
If education leaders can focus their energy, resources, and policies on growing the pool of great teachers and focus on the right metrics of success, America’s students will have a better chance at achieving meaningful success in their lives.

Monday, August 27, 2012

College Grads Need to Interview the Job

by Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Gallup Education

There's a lot of complaining among recent college grads and their parents about the current job market. Yes, it's bleak compared with what it's been in the past. And, no, there isn't the same return on investment that a college degree once guaranteed. But those are largely forces out of an individual graduate's control. What college grads can control is how they interview for jobs or, better put, how they interview the job.

Far too many people make choices about the jobs they accept based on the wrong criteria. Recent college grads, with less experience working and interviewing, probably suffer more from this than any other group. The wrong criteria include things like salary, benefits, vacation days, and holidays. It's not that these things don't matter. There's a certain threshold we all need or want to meet with regard to how much we are paid and what the benefits package looks like. But people neither love nor hate their job because of these things. Gallup has a 22-million-person database to back this up.

Thanks to the largest worldwide study of employee engagement and management, Gallup knows an awful lot about what makes for a good job. We conduct employee engagement surveys for companies and organizations across the globe. We've learned there are 12 questions that best predict whether an employee is engaged and excelling. Most have to do with how good (or not) your direct manager is. Here are just a handful of takeaways:

  1. If you want to know what a good job looks like, you need to know what a good manager looks like. Good jobs depend on good managers who actively work to engage their employees.
  2. People don't leave companies; they leave bad managers. Your satisfaction with and success in your job is much more dependent on your direct manager than it is on the company for which you work.
  3. It really matters that you get a "good" job, not just any job. If you are what Gallup deems an "actively disengaged" employee, the negative effects on your well-being are, in many ways, worse than if you were unemployed.
  4. A good job is not defined by pay and benefits. Read that again, please.

So what can a recent college grad do? They should interview the job. And Gallup research findings hint at the questions they should ask. For example, we know that you will be more satisfied and successful in your job if:

  • You have a chance to do what you are best at every day;
  • Your manager focuses on giving you feedback about your strengths as opposed to your weaknesses;
  • You receive recognition or praise for good work every week;
  • Your manager cares about you as a person; and
  • You have a best friend at work.

Given this knowledge, here are three powerful questions college grads should ask of their prospective manager:

  1. How much do you balance provided feedback between focusing on people's strengths versus their weaknesses? Desired answer: "The vast majority is focused on strengths."
  2. How often do you provide positive feedback to your staff? Desired answer: "All the time, at least every week."
  3. What do you do to encourage close friendships at work? Desired answer: "Several things, let me explain..."
If the manager hesitates for long periods of time on these questions or says something like, "That's a great question... I've never thought about that," run. If they can't answer with specifics, that's a warning, too.

Two questions to ask yourself about the job:

  1. If I take this job, will I have a chance to do what I'm best at every day?
  2. Did my prospective manager do anything in the interview process to show he or she cares about me as a person?

If you don't know what you're best at, read my next post. In the meantime, forward this along to a recent college grad or student you know.

Originally published on The Huffington Post College blog

Monday, August 20, 2012

StrengthsFinder 2.0 Now Available in Mandarin

By Jon Clifton, Partner

Mandarin speakers now can join the nearly 7.8 million people worldwide who have discovered their strengths and improved their organization's performance. Gallup launched the Mandarin version of the #1 Wall Street Journal nonfiction and business bestseller, StrengthsFinder 2.0, last week in Beijing, giving millions of Mandarin speakers an opportunity to uncover and apply their natural talents.

(StrengthsFinder 2.0 launch in Beijing, China)

Learn about Gallup's expanded StrengthsFinder offerings here.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Different Way to Think About Corporate Social Responsibility

By John Fleming, Gallup Chief Scientist

Many of the topics of conversation about corporate social responsibility center on the “usual suspects,” such as environmental sustainability, ethical sourcing, “fair trade” practices, good corporate citizenship, financial and investment transparency, and support of charitable causes and organizations, among others. Gallup data, however, suggest that we may want to rethink and expand our definition of socially responsible actions. Specifically, these data suggest that the socially responsible corporate activities that resonate most strongly with customers are those that are local and community-based. And lost in the shuffle among all of the competing activities people tend to discuss is perhaps one of the most important, but often overlooked, socially responsible actions companies can take: creating jobs.

The research in question was not designed to explore corporate social responsibility per se. The aim of the study was to explore the nature of trust in financial institutions in the United States and globally. Gallup research has consistently found an only-in-my-backyard bias in customers’ ratings of confidence in banks and financial institutions. That is, while only 1% or 2% of U.S. financial services customers have “a great deal” of confidence in global and U.S. financial institutions, respectively, 21% have “a great deal” of confidence in their own primary bank.

We wanted to identify those activities that were most strongly related to higher levels of confidence in U.S. banks and financial institutions as well as in customers’ primary banks. We asked about a range of activities in which these organizations could engage, such as support for national charitable organizations, support for local charities, support for local sports teams, community involvement of staff, and so on.

“Having employees that are active and involved in community events” had the largest impact on confidence in one’s own bank while “helping to create jobs” had the largest impact on confidence in U.S. banks overall. The 15% of customers who indicated that their bank’s employees were involved were over six times more likely to have confidence in their bank compared with those whose bank’s employees were not involved. Contributing to national charitable organizations had the smallest impact on confidence in both U.S. banks overall and in one’s own bank.

While these results focus specifically on customer confidence in banking in the United States, they also suggest that broadening our thinking about what constitutes socially responsible corporate activities to include job creation, as well as focusing on local community activities, could be a productive strategy for companies to pursue, particularly from the vantage point of their own customers.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Gallup's Mobile App: Insights for Leaders on the Go

Gallup just launched its revamped app for the Android, iPhone, and iPad. World leaders, business executives, and journalists can now get breaking news, data updates, and the latest business insights from Gallup right at their fingertips, wherever they are.

This free app gives leaders access to the latest Gallup articles and videos on politics, business, wellbeing, and world news, and now also provides interactive trend graphs and more data from around the world.

Now you can:
• Get U.S. Gallup Daily tracking data updates at 1 p.m. EST every day
    • Presidential Job Approval
    • Presidential Election
    • Unemployment
    • Job Creation
    • Consumer Spending
    • Wellbeing Metrics
• Follow U.S. Gallup Daily tracking data trends over time with interactive graphs
• Explore data from more than 140 countries
• Read top Gallup news articles
• Access all Gallup blogs
• Get hard-hitting leadership insights from the Gallup Business Journal
• Share articles via email, Facebook, Twitter, or SMS
• Save your favorite stories

If you already have the Gallup app, check for an update to get these new features. Otherwise, you can download the revamped app here.

For more ways to get Gallup's latest research and insights, follow @gallup on Twitter and check out our official LinkedIn page.

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