Public, teachers’ views split on reform

Teachers’ views on education issues have diverged from public opinion in the last year, concludes a Harvard survey. Take the survey here.

The public splits on whether teachers’ unions have a positive or negative influence; teachers defend their unions more strongly.

Public opposition to teacher tenure edged upward; teachers support tenure more than ever. Public support for basing tenure on student academic progress increased from 49 percent to 55 percent, but only 30 percent of teachers agreed.

The public supports merit pay by a 47 to 27 percent margin. Only 18 percent of teachers favor merit pay and 72 percent oppose it.

The public agrees with teachers on one issue: 55 percent of the public and 82 percent of teachers favor higher pay. Only 7 percent of the public would cut teacher pay.

However, public support for higher teacher pay falls to 42 percent when those surveyed are told how much the average teacher in their state is currently paid.

Given a choice between increasing teacher salaries and reducing class sizes, the public opted for smaller classes. Told that “reducing average class sizes by three students would cost roughly the same amount as increasing teacher salaries by $10,000,” 44 percent chose class-size reduction and 28 percent selected increasing teacher salaries.

Teachers split on whether to opt for higher pay or smaller classes.

By a strong margin, the public favored teachers paying a percentage of their benefit costs, while teachers overwhelmingly reject this cost-cutting measure.

Public support for vouchers increased: 47 percent backed “a proposal to give families with children in public schools a wider choice, by allowing them to enroll their children in private schools instead, with government helping to pay the tuition.”

Forty-three percent of the public — and 45 percent of teachers — supported charter schools; a minority are anti-charter and many are undecided.

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  1. What an informative, well-considered post.

    Teacher’s views on education appear far more diverse in the United States than they are here in Canada. Indeed, teachers here generally parrot the official line and talking points provided by the unions. The provincial teacher unions, especially the OSSTF and the NSTU, are simply assumed, by the media, to be speaking for all teachers.

    While promoting my current book, Vanishing Schools, Threatened Communities (2011) I run into the prevailing attitude all the time. After showing initial interest in the book, public school teachers too often say “I’m a teacher. I’m not allowed to have an opinion.” Far too many are also allergic to parent activism.

    My EduBlog (Educhatter) provides teachers with anonymity, so we do attract a wider range of opinion. It is sadly lacking in our public discourse.

  2. 45% is also a minority, so a minority of parents support charters as well.

    And generally, the summary really distorts the results. Why ask about Somewhat vs. Strongly if you aren’t going to distinguish these in your report?

    Also, I don’t see any question in the link about teacher qualifications. Did I miss it?

  3. Cal, just above the graphic about support for charters there was another graphic about support for vouchers. Did you miss that one?

    In every category, and even among teachers, support for vouchers is up in 2011 over 2010.

    Of course the only surveys that much matter are answered with “aye” and “nay” and there’s been quite a nice crop of “aye” votes this year.