Friday, August 19, 2011

43rd Annual PDK/Gallup Poll Highlights

43rd Annual PDK/Gallup Poll Shows Higher Confidence in Teachers Despite Negative Perception of Nation’s Schools

Despite low opinions of the nation’s schools, Americans rate their  public school teachers more highly now than they have in the past, according to the 2011 annual  PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. More than 70 percent of  Americans say they have trust and confidence in the men and women who are teaching in public  schools. Sixty-nine percent of Americans give public school teachers in their community a letter  grade of an A or B, compared to only 50 percent in 1984.

While the public feels positive about teachers in their communities, it has a less favorable opinion of others involved in education, particularly governors and teacher unions. In fact, nearly  one in two Americans believes that teacher unions hurt public education. Despite that, slightly  more than half of Americans side with teacher union leaders in disputes with governors over  collective bargaining.

Although Americans clearly have concerns about education issues, when the poll — conducted  annually by Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) in conjunction with Gallup — asked Americans whether they would encourage the brightest person they know to become a teacher,  three of four said that they would. Sixty-seven percent also said they would like to have a child of theirs choose a public-school teaching career, and 76 percent believe we should be actively  recruiting our high-achieving high school students to consider teaching as a career.

“Americans expect, even demand, quality — in the food they eat, the clothes they buy, and the cars they drive. And they expect high-quality public schools,” said William Bushaw, executive  director of PDK International and co-director of the PDK/Gallup poll. “This year's PDK/Gallup  poll shows that Americans believe the key to good schools is high-quality teachers. Interestingly,  they have mixed opinions whether state governors or education leaders are the ones who can  better ensure that our schools provide the quality they expect.” 

The 2011 poll also reveals that Americans’ opinions of President Obama’s national education  efforts have improved, increasing seven points from last year. Forty-one percent of Americans would give the president a letter grade of an A or a B for his support of public schools, close to what he received his first year in office. The public also continues to approve of Obama’s support of charter schools; 70 percent favor the idea — the highest level of approval in the past 10 years.

Additionally, Americans increasingly support school choice, or allowing students and parents to  choose which public schools to attend in their community regardless of where they live. On the  other hand, vouchers received their lowest approval rating in the last 10 years, with only one of  three Americans in favor of allowing students and parents to use public money to pay to attend a  private school.

Other key findings:
• Funding is the biggest problem facing schools. Thirty-six percent of Americans believe  that lack of financial support is the biggest problem facing schools.
• Teacher salaries and layoffs should be based on multiple factors. Consistent with past  findings, Americans believe teacher salaries should be based on multiple factors,  including advanced degrees, experience, and the principal’s evaluations of the teacher.  Students’ scores on standardized tests were rated as least important. Similarly, Americans  believe that school districts should use multiple factors to determine which teachers  should be laid off first, rather than basing it primarily on seniority (last hired, first fired).
Americans are conflicted over whether standardized test scores should be published.  Some newspapers are releasing information about how the students of individual teachers  perform on standardized tests. When asked whether they were in favor of or opposed to this practice, Americans were equally split, with 51 percent favoring it and 48 percent  opposing it.
• College is important but doesn’t guarantee readiness. College graduates are considered most ready for the world of work. However, not all Americans believe that a  college degree is sufficient for readiness.

PDK, a global association of education professionals, has conducted this poll with Gallup annually since 1969. The poll serves as an opportunity for parents, educators, and legislators to assess public opinion about public schools. The 2011 findings are based on telephone interviews conducted in June 2011 with a national sample of 1,002 American adults.
More poll data is available at

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