Differences in Teacher Perceptions of State Policies

Laura Desimone
Monday, May 1, 2017
Policy Attributes Theory
Teaching and Instruction

Do teachers of different grades, subjects, and types of students view their state policies differently?

In a previous post, we discussed how teachers, principals, and district officials differ in their perceptions of the state education policy environment, finding that overall teachers perceive less authority (buy-in) of state college- and career-readiness standards and they view the standards as less stable than either principals or district officials do.

We find meaningful and significant differences between how teachers of different grades, subjects, and types of students, perceived their policy environment, described below. 

In this post, we discuss how subgroups of teachers differ in their view of the policy environment by analyzing teacher responses to C-SAIL’s state-representative district surveys in Texas, Ohio, and Kentucky (three of C-SAIL’s partner states).

We asked teachers to assess their policy environment based on the five following policy attributes: (1) consistency, (2) specificity, (3) authority, (4) power, and (5) stability. We find meaningful and significant differences between how teachers of different grades, subjects, and types of students, perceived their policy environment, described below. 

Differences among Teachers

The figures below show the results for all three states. Sometimes subgroups of teachers are not included if the sample size was too low.

Note that in the figures below, red circles indicate significance gaps between every respondent group. Brown circles indicate significance gaps between three different groups. Yellow circles indicate significance gaps between one group and two other groups. Gray circles indicate significance between only two groups.

Figure 1. Texas


In Texas, there were few differences between teachers in terms of how they rated the policy system. Texas teachers rated the authority of standards policy in the 2.2 to 2.8 range, which suggests there is room for strengthening buy-in. Similarly, stability scores between 2.4 and 2.6 suggest that many Texas teachers do not think the standards system will stay in place for more than 3 years.

Notable differences are that teachers of students with disabilities (SWDs) rated the policy system as less authoritative than all other groups (gray circle). SWD teachers also rated the policy system as less specific than math teachers (red circle). While these differences are statistically significant, they are small.

Figure 2. Ohio


In Ohio, there are a few more differences among teachers. Scores for the attributes range in the 2.1 to 2.5 range suggesting moderate perceptions of the strength of the attributes, but with room for improvement. Ohio math teachers rated their policy system as significantly more authoritative but less consistent than ELA teachers did (brown circle). SWD teachers rated the system as significantly more consistent than did math teachers, but less authoritative than did ELA teachers (brown circles). ELL teachers rated the Ohio standards as significantly more stable than did ELA and SWD teachers (yellow circle). As with Texas, these differences are significant but small.

Figure 3. Kentucky


In Kentucky, moderate scores in the 2.1 to 2.5 range for stability and power are consistent with other states. Specificity, authority, and power are slightly higher, ranging from 2.6 to 3.0.

In contrast with Ohio, Kentucky ELA teachers rated the policy system as significantly more authoritative than math teachers did (yellow circle). Math teachers perceived the policy system as more powerful than SWD teachers do (gray circle). SWD teachers rated the system as significantly more consistent than did math teachers (gray circle), but less authoritative than did ELA teachers (yellow circle). SWD teachers also saw the policy system as significantly more specific and consistent than math teachers, and significantly more specific than ELA teachers.

What do differences mean?

The above findings suggest that teachers of different types of students experience their policy environment differently and that there are several instructive differences across states.

Specifically, these results suggest different policy environments for teachers of students with disabilities in Texas compared to Kentucky. In Texas, SWD teachers are significantly less likely to perceive specificity in policies, while in Kentucky, SWD teachers are significantly more likely to perceive specificity than other teachers. In both Texas and Ohio, SWD teachers perceived significantly less authority, but this was not true in Kentucky – again suggesting a more specific, authoritative environment for SWD teachers in that state.

Of all five attributes, it seems consistency is the highest-ranked attribute across all three states. Texas stands out as having teachers who consider their policy environment as more specific than Kentucky and Ohio teachers.  Kentucky teachers predict more change in their policy environment than Texas and Ohio, perhaps reflecting current policy initiatives that have happened there recently.  

These comparisons are instructive in understanding what teachers of different subjects and special populations may have in common in terms of their policy environment, and where there may be important differences with implications for the supports and challenges they face. For example, if teachers of SWDs are rating their policy environment as less specific than other teachers are, this may suggest that they could benefit from more instructional support and guidance for helping their students meet state standards.