As the debate over teacher tenure and teacher evaluations continues, a new poll released last week showed Americans support more stringent admission requirements for teacher education programs, more rigorous evaluations and a “bar exam” type of certification test.
Those surveyed in the second release of information from the 46th edition of the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools believe performance evaluations are important to help teachers improve and to identify those who are ineffective. But they do not support the use of student test scores as the primary tool for evaluating teachers.
These are issues that those who educate prospective teachers are already beginning to address. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation has implemented new rules that will set minimum academic standards for students seeking admission into university schools of education. In addition, more than 100,000 teachers throughout the country have earned national board certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, including many in Contra Costa County.
The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education has endorsed a performance assessment developed by Stanford University, which is built on national board certification and has been compared to a bar exam, to determine whether a teacher candidate is ready to teach.
“Many programs designed to help teachers improve their skills already exist,” said William Bushaw, chief executive officer of PDK International and co-director of the PDK/Gallup poll in a news release. “But this year’s results show that more work, study and action by district, state and federal leaders is needed to implement these programs that Americans support.”
The poll also asked about the public school calendar, curriculum and educating undocumented children.
Key findings include:
— 81 percent of those surveyed said teachers “should be required to pass board certification in addition to earning a degree.”
— 60 percent said entrance requirements to education schools should be raised.
— 44 percent said student teaching stints with a certificated teacher should last one year; 27 percent said two years; 4 percent supported the most common practice of six-week student teaching assignments.
— 45 percent said the number of instructional days should remain the same, but vacations should be spread throughout the year instead of mainly in the summer; about 44 percent generally supported adding more instructional days.
— 31 percent generally supported adding more hours to each school day.
Support for educating undocumented children varied, depending whether or not the question included the word “illegally.”
— 56 percent supported “providing public education to children of immigrants who are undocumented.”
— 49 percent favored “providing education to children of immigrants who are in the United States illegally.”
— 91 percent said a college education is “fairly important” or “very important.”
However, the 2014 poll found an unexpected change in those categories compared to four years ago. In 2010, 75 percent of those surveyed said college was “very important,” while 21 percent said it was “fairly important.”
This year, 43 percent categorized college as “very important,” while 48 percent responded “fairly important.”
“We were genuinely surprised by the divided response on the importance of college,” Bushaw said. “Americans seem to be rethinking the idea that a college education is essential for success in the U.S. economy, perhaps in part because parents are less certain they will be able to pay for it.”
PDK, an international association of education professionals, has conducted this poll annually with Gallup since 1969. The most recent findings are based on telephone interviews completed in May and June 2014 with a national sample of 1,001 American adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.6 percent.
Complete results are at www.pdkpoll.org.
Do you agree with the poll results?