The 4th annual Education Next poll shows a sharp divide between teachers and the general public on merit pay, teacher tenure, Race to the Top, and a host of other hot-button education issues. The poll, which was conducted by researchers at Harvard shows
“most Americans support merit pay for teachers, while teachers oppose the policy by a large margin; there is strong opposition among the public to teacher tenure, while teachers favor it; and teachers are significantly more opposed to the federal RttT program than the broader public.”
No surprises here. Teacher tenure will never make sense to those who don’t enjoy that kind of job security. And merit pay will always have an intuitive appeal. Who can begrudge the standouts in any field deserve more.
Here’s a poll question I’d like to see asked:
In general, do you feel your child’s teachers spend too much time, too little time, or the right amount of time preparing students for standardized state tests?
Or this one:
Please indicate whether you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly agree with the following statement: my child’s school places too much emphasis on standardized tests.
Just a hunch, but I suspect a majority of Americans would express reservations about the amount of test prep their children endure–at least those with kids in the prime testing grades 3 through 8–and the degree to which testing dominates elementary education. If so, this might skewer Ed Next’s finding that “support for ‘basing a teacher’s salary, in part, on his or her students’ academic progress on state tests’ jumped five percentage points in one year, increasing from 44 percent in 2007 to 49 percent in 2010.
Another figure that jumped out at me: everyone “knows” that teachers are the weakest link in the chain and that attacking teacher unions is a political winner. Maybe not. More people believe teacher unions are “blocking school reform rather than helping it,” but the margin is slim, 33 to 28 percent. “But 39 percent take no position at all,” says Ed Next.
Other interesting data points in the Ed Next poll:
- Growing support for online schooling. The percentage of Americans in favor of allowing high school students to take a course on the Internet increased from 42 percent to 52 percent in the last year.
- Support for charter schools “remained essentially unchanged between 2008 and 2010—rising from 42 percent to 44 percent, while opposition increased from just 16 to 19 percent.”
- While 45 percent of the American public supported vouchers in 2007, only 31 percent did so in 2010.
“When it comes to school choice, charters and learning on the Internet are ‘in,’ while vouchers are ‘out,’” notes Harvard’s Paul E. Peterson, the editor-in-chief of Education Next.
My humble request for my friends at Ed Next. How about a few questions next year on curriculum? It would be intriguing to learn what Americans think about the content of their children’s education and how they feel it compares to their own.