AP vs. PDK vs. EdNext: Who ya gonna believe?

Three education polls came out this week from AP-NORC (for the Joyce Foundation), PDK/Gallup and Education Next. Who ya gonna believe?

Education Next‘s Paul Peterson analyzes why EdNext‘s poll differs from the PDK poll:

EdNext: “As you may know, all states are currently deciding whether or not to adopt the Common Core standards in reading and math. If adopted, these standards would be used to hold the state’s schools accountable for their performance. Do you support or oppose the adoption of the Common Core standards in your state?”

Public
Support 65%
Oppose 13
Neutral 23

PDK: “Do you believe Common Core State Standards would help make education in the United States more competitive globally, less competitive globally, or have no effect globally? (Asked only of those who have heard of the Common Core).”

Public
More competitive 41%
Less competitive 24
No effect 35
No opinion 3

While EdNext described Common Core, PDK asked people whether they knew the education “code words,” writes Peterson. The 38 percent who did — a small sample — were asked to predict the future, which people are reluctant to do. “In short, I believe that on this one PDK fished for the answer they wanted,” he concludes.

EdNext asked:How much trust and confidence do you have in public school teachers?,” while PDK asked: “Do you have trust and confidence in the men and women who are teaching children in the public schools?”

“Talking about the “men and women who are teaching children,” using evocative words such as “children” and hinting at that famous patriotic phrase—the “men and women who serve in our armed forces” encourages positive responses, writes Peterson.

Only 42 percent of the public have “a lot of” or “complete” trust and confidence in public school teachers in EdNext‘s poll, which gave four choices. “PDK forces people to say they do have confidence unless they have ‘no confidence’ in teachers, a polling strategy that will increase the proportion of positive responses.”

The two polls get similar responses on charter schools, but PDK finds a better than 2:1 split against vouchers, while EdNext says the public is divided. Again, PDK has loaded the question, writes Peterson.

The move to tie student test scores to teacher evaluation generates different answers on the AP-NORC PDK/Gallup polls, writes Steven Sawchuck on Teacher Beat.

In the AP poll, 53 percent of parents said changes in students’ statewide test scores should be used either “a great deal” or “quite a bit” in teachers’ evaluations compared with 20 percent who said “only a little” or “not at all.”

On the PDK/Gallup poll, 58 percent of adults surveyed opposed state requirements that teacher evaluations “include how well a teacher’s students perform on standardized tests.”

Why the differences?

  • AP frames the evaluation question in terms of changes in scores rather than performance on the tests.
  • AP does not reference a state requirement, as PDK does.
  • As colleague Lesli Maxwell points out, the PDK poll prefaced its questions by saying there had been “a significant increase in standardized testing.”

“Not surprisingly, folks on either side of the testing wars are embracing the poll that supports their viewpoint and condemning the other poll as biased or misleading in some way,” concludes Sawchuck.

Education Gadfly has more on the polling trifecta.

Public trusts teachers, but not their unions

Americans trust teachers, but not their unions, concludes the annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll.

More than 70 percent of respondents have confidence in public school teachers; 69 percent give local teachers an A or B. However, nearly half say teachers’ unions hurt public education.

Three out of four said they’d encourage a bright student to become a teacher; 67 percent would like their own child to choose a public-school teaching career.

Americans increasingly support school choice, but only one of three favors vouchers, the poll reported.

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).

College prepares graduates for the workforce, respondents said, but not all believe a college degree is sufficient for readiness.

Even more so than in the past, Americans give high marks to local schools, low marks to the nation’s schools, notes Rick Hess.

I’ll start by noting that I’m not a huge fan of the American public right now. After all, we’re the twits who demand lots of services but don’t want to pay for them. And then we get angry when our leaders can’t square this circle. We insist that they take painful steps to rein in spending, and then complain when they try to do it. In short, we’ve shown all the character and discipline of an irate preschooler.

While Americans strongly prefer small classes, 80 percent “believe that high school classes with more students and a better teacher would result in higher student achievement than would smaller classes with less effective teachers,” Hess notes.

Meeting of the minds on education

Only 18 percent of Americans give the nation’s schools an A or a B in two new education polls, Education Next -Program on Education Policy and Governance and Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup.

Only 28 percent of teachers give the nation’s schools an A or B, while 55 percent awarded a C and 17 percent a D or F in the Ed Next-PEPG poll.

However, both surveys found strong support for local schools, even stronger for the schools their children attend. Seventy-seven percent gave an A or B to their oldest child’s school in the PDK/Gallup poll.

Except for school spending and teacher tenure,  differences on education policy are minor and don’t break on party lines, write researchers William G. Howell, Paul E. Peterson and Martin R. West in Education Next. Support is growing for merit pay and online education.

While 63 percent of the public favor an increase in “government funding for public schools in your district,” only 29 percent support an increase in local taxes to fund local schools.

Support for higher teacher pay has fallen to 59 percent from 69 percent in 2008. Telling respondents the average teacher salary in their state cuts support to 42 percent.

When it comes to school choice, charter schools and online education are “in,” while private school vouchers are “out.” The charter option is especially popular among minorities and parents in neighborhoods where charter schools are already present.

Public school teachers are split on charters with 39 percent supporting charters and 36 percent opposed.

Merit pay is gaining support: 49 percent back “basing a teacher’s salary, in part, on students’ academic progress on state tests,” while 25 percent are opposed.

The public continues to oppose teacher tenure: 47 percent say no, while 27 percent favor tenure.

Seventy-six percent of the public and 63 percent of teachers believe students should have to pass a graduation exam; 79 percent of respondents want students to pass a test before moving on to the next grade, as is now required for third graders in Florida and New York City.

While 57 percent of the public favor releasing a school’s average test scores, only 45 percent of teachers agree. Half of teachers want to keep current testing requirements compared to 62 percent of the general public.

Democrats are more supportive of vouchers and education tax credits than Republicans because of blacks’ strong support for school choice. However, Democrats are more supportive of raising teacher salaries and overall school spending and much more likely to say teachers unions have a positive effect on their community’s schools.

At the height of President Obama’s popularity in 2009, respondents were more likely to support his education policies when told his stand. By 2010, the Obama effect had waned. “Yet public opinion on merit pay, charter schools, and vouchers all shifted closer to the president’s position,” the researchers observe.

The PDK-Gallup Poll shows slipping support for President Obama’s education agenda, reports Ed Week. Just 34 percent give the president an A or B when grading his performance on education during his first 17 months in office.

Most rejected tough turnaround strategies: 54 percent opposed firing the principal or teachers at low-performing schools.

Improving teacher quality is the most important national education strategy, respondents said.

Seventy-one percent of those surveyed said teachers should be paid on the basis of their work, rather than on a standard salary schedule, and 54 percent said a teacher’s salary should be “somewhat closely” tied to the achievement of his or her students.

. . .  When asked what the primary purpose of evaluating teachers should be, 60 percent said to help teachers improve, compared with 26 percent who said it should be used to document ineffectiveness that could lead to dismissal, and 13 percent said evaluations should be used to establish teachers’ salaries based on their skills.

Compared to Ed Next-PEPG, the poll found stronger and growing support for charter schools is growing: 65 percent would back a new public charter schools in their community; 60 percent would support “a large increase” in charter schools nationwide.