First Survey of Teachers of the Year Stresses Role of Peer Support

Washington, D.C. – A first-of-its kind exploratory survey of National and State Teachers of the Year finds that having accomplished teachers support new or struggling teachers was considered a highly important factor in improving effectiveness – both for the person receiving and providing the support. This and other findings are shared in a new report co-written by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) in collaboration with the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) and five other organizations.

While there has been great attention nationally on evaluating teachers to identify which are effective and which are not, and on finding ways to reward good teachers, the survey expands the discussion by asking highly effective teachers how they got that way.

“We found there is no silver bullet for developing teachers’ excellence but rather a range of professional supports that matter. What’s important is for teachers, policy leaders and teacher education programs to use the data to spark conversations about the critical professional supports that are lacking or could be strengthened in their context,” said Ellen Behrstock-Sherratt, a senior research and policy analyst at AIR. “Our report is accompanied by a companion discussion starter toolkit to facilitate just those conversations.”

The survey, which was conducted with teacher researchers, reflects responses from more than 300 National and State Teachers of the Year from the mid-1970s through 2013. It aimed to learn more about the experiences and supports that these accomplished teachers said helped them teach well. Some findings include:

  • More than 70 percent of those surveyed said a high quality student-teaching experience was one of the top three most important supports they received as student teachers. Other popular supports were “content-specific coursework” and “applied coursework on specific skills.” These ranked higher than “early opportunities to observe in a PK-12 classroom” and “theoretical coursework.”
  • Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed listed receiving access to a mentor as one of the top three most helpful supports for developing effectiveness early in their careers, with nearly as many noting the importance of a “highly supportive principal.”
  • Ninety-two percent said they received “formal, ongoing education” after five years of teaching. This formal education was ranked as the second most important experience during this career stage.
  • Although 96 percent said they have received school- or district-mandated professional development in the middle of their careers, only a little more than 10 percent ranked this support among the top three for developing their effectiveness as a teacher.

AIR’s Center on Great Teachers and Leaders partnered with NNSTOY to produce the report, along with the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Council on Teacher Quality, and the National Education Association.

To read From Good to Great: Exemplary Teachers Share Perspectives on Increasing Teacher Effectiveness Across the Career Continuum, visit

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit


Media Contact

Dana Tofig

Managing Director, Corporate Communications