Americans' confidence rising in public school teachers, poll finds
Public school teachers have taken a bashing, in part because of moves to tie student scores on standardized tests directly to teacher performance. Now, a new poll suggests that Americans' confidence is rising in their neighborhood schools and the people who run them.
Americans remain largely critical of the US education system as a whole, but parents, especially, are increasingly pleased with their neighborhood schools and more displeased with the rising use of standardized, multiple choice tests to evaluate, and potentially punish, teachers, a new Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll suggests.Skip to next paragraph
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To be sure, the poll findings show mixed sentiments among Americans toward public education in the US. For one, the public remains largely unaware of tectonic shifts in the education system, including the move by states to adopt the so-called Common Core standards that promote depth over breadth of knowledge about various topics.
Even as opposition to the new standards rises – in April, the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution rejecting them – just slightly more than one-third of Americans have ever heard of the Common Core, and only a fraction of those can describe the voluntary new standard in detail.
While the details of education policy may fly over the radar of most Americans, the poll does reflect at least a partial consensus that runs counter to long-running public school criticism that has made teachers, and teacher unions, the scapegoats of failing schools.
In the most dramatic shift in the annual poll, a majority of Americans – 58 percent – oppose using student standardized test results to explicitly score teacher performance. Last year, 52 percent in the same poll said they support using those kinds of tests to evaluate teachers.
Teacher unions have long said that focusing on standardized tests to judge schools and teachers is a political gambit aimed at vilifying poorer, struggling schools to corral support – and resources – for schools in middle-class communities, a scheme known in the education world as “educate the best, forget about the rest.”
The PDK/Gallup poll, analysts say, shows that Americans on the whole are becoming skeptical about the connection between teachers and failing schools, suggesting instead that schools need more resources to succeed. Seventy percent of respondents – the highest percentage ever recorded in the 45-year-old poll – oppose using taxpayer money to fund “vouchers” for private schools.
“Americans continue to identify lack of financial support as the biggest problem facing public schools, while increased testing and regulation emerged as other top concerns Americans have about schools,” Bill Bushaw, executive director of PDK International, said during a press call Tuesday.