So we have a new batch of public opinion data to consider from the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup education poll released today, and it got me thinking: What would teachers make of these findings?
A few fascinating trends pop off the page:
- Fewer Americans say they trust and have confidence in the men and women who are teaching children in public schools this year than last year — 64 percent this year, compared to 72 percent last year. And this drops to 56 percent among Republicans.
While an 8-point national drop is a significant shift in public opinion, the reality is that two-thirds of Americans have confidence in their public school teachers — a level of public trust exceeded only by nurses and pharmacists, according to other survey data.
So how do we explain the eroding support? And does it square with these seemingly contradictory findings?
- Some 57 percent of Americans would like to see their children take up public school teaching as a career. (This question was last asked in 2005, when 62 percent said yes). And 54% say they are likely to brag about their neighborhood school.
- There may be less trust, but the majority of Americans — 61 percent — say they still oppose state mandates that include “how well a teacher’s students perform on standardized tests” on teacher evaluations. This is about the same level of opposition it faced last year, with 58 percent against the idea.
But since we know the public — especially public school parents — generally favor accountability for schools, it makes me wonder how the public would have responded to that last question if it included more factual context? For example, what if the question mentioned that student test data is only one part of a teacher’s evaluation, along with classroom observations and other measures? Or that these new evaluation systems, which are really still being piloted in most districts and states, don’t measure a single achievement “score,” but rather how much students learn over a school year?
Let’s Hear from the Teachers
I know teachers aren’t inclined to worry too much about what national polls say about their profession. They are too focused on their relationships with their students, their parents and their colleagues in their school community.
But we know the public spends more time talking about teachers than with teachers, so we’d like to open a dialogue around these shifts in public perspective. We’re going to pose these questions to a cross-section of teachers across the country, and the publish their thoughts here on the blog.
Stay tuned for their ideas…