Thursday, September 27, 2012

Poll: Teacher Performance Key To Student Achievement

The recent teachers' strike in Chicago has brought to the forefront of public attention many issues related to American public schools, among them teacher evaluations, job security and benefits.  


In a survey conducted prior to the strike, majorities of Americans perceive recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers (72%) and a positive school atmosphere (64%) as very important for improving student achievement in public schools, while increasing students' (49%), teachers' (46%) and parents' (43%) school satisfaction levels is also clearly important.

 
But while attracting effective teachers is a concern across political and socioeconomic lines, there remain multiple points of dissent on the best practices for doing so, as well as what constitutes appropriate levels of teacher pay and school funding. 


These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,311 U.S. adults (ages 18 and over) surveyed online between July 16 and 23, 2012 by Harris Interactive.


While stakeholders' satisfaction with schools is clearly important to Americans, it resonates most strongly among those with lower levels of education and income: 
  • Americans without college degrees (53%) are more likely than those with a degree (39%) to see increasing students' satisfaction with their schools as very important; they are also more likely to rate parental satisfaction with their children's schools as very important (47% and 33%, respectively). 
  • Americans earning under $35,000 also place higher importance on school satisfaction than their counterparts, being more likely than those earning $35,000 or more to rate student (55% vs. 44%), teacher (52% vs. 43%) and parent (51% vs. 39%) satisfaction very important.
 
Teacher Recruitment and Retention
Given the clear importance in Americans' minds of attracting and holding onto good teachers, another key area is how to best accomplish this.  Overall, Americans most strongly support enabling schools to more easily remove those teachers not serving students well (73%) as one of the highest priorities in addressing this goal, along with basing teacher effectiveness measures largely on student growth (59%).  Providing better professional development opportunities (55%) and improving job satisfaction (51%) for teachers are also seen as high priorities by many Americans, along with improving teachers' bonuses and salaries (45%).


While all of the tested solutions were popular, presenting a situation in which only one could be funded brings viewpoints into sharper focus.  Enabling schools to more easily remove teachers who are not serving students well (43%) is Americans' top selection by a considerable margin, at roughly twice the level of the next strongest option (basing teacher effectiveness measurements on student growth, 21%).  The perceived importance of increasing schools' ability to remove ineffectual teachers does vary widely:
  • By age, its selection drops as low as 31% among echo boomers (ages 18-35) and rises as high as 61% among matures (ages 67+).
  • Democrats (33%) are significantly less likely to select this option than either Independents (45%) or Republicans (53%).
  • Parents (36%) are less likely to support this approach than those without children in grades K-12 (45%).
 
Teacher pay and overall funding in public schools
When asked about both teacher pay levels and overall spending on public schools in their communities, Americans most strongly perceive each as receiving too little money (46% teachers, 50% schools), followed – more distantly in the case of overall school funding - by about the right amount (33% and 27%, respectively).  However, opinions again vary widely:
  • Democrats are more likely than Republicans to view both teacher pay (56% vs. 39%) and school funding (63% vs. 39%) as too low.  Independents consistently fall between the two parties, though their responses on this matter skew closer to Republican viewpoints.
  • Parents (57%) are significantly more likely than adults without children in grades K-12 (48%) to rate overall school funding as too low.
  • Females are more likely than males to rate both teacher pay (52% vs. 40%) and school funding (54% vs. 46%) as too low.
  • Adults in the South are more likely than those in any other region to perceive teacher pay as too low (31% East, 43% Midwest, 57% South, 48% West).
  • The perception of teachers as under-paid (46%) is closer to its 1965 level (42%) than in either 2009 (54%) or 2008 (59%), though the perception of teachers as over-paid (12%) – while small – is at its highest point on record.  The perception of schools as under-funded continues to be well above 1965 levels (50% 2012, 51% 2009, 57% 2008, 32% 1965).


TABLE 1A
FACTORS IN IMPROVING PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
"Thinking about public school education in
the United States, how important is each of the following for improving student achievement in America's public schools (grades K-12)?"
Base: All adults

IMPORTANT
(NET)
Very Important
Important
NOT IMPORTANT
(NET)
Not that important
Not at all important
%
%
%
%
%
%
Recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers
96
72
25
4
3
1
A positive school atmosphere
96
64
32
4
3
1
Increasing students' satisfaction with their school
90
49
42
10
7
2
Increasing teachers' satisfaction with their school
90
46
44
10
7
3
Increasing parents' satisfaction with their children's school
89
43
46
11
9
2
Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 1B
FACTORS IN IMPROVING PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT – By Education & Income
"Thinking about public school education in
the United States, how important is each of the following for improving student achievement in America's public schools (grades K-12)?"
Percent saying "Very Important"
Base: All adults

Total
Education
Income
No College Degree
College Degree
Under $35,000
$35,000 Or More
%
%
%
%
%
Recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers
72
72
70
74
71
A positive school atmosphere
64
66
60
67
62
Increasing students' satisfaction with their school
49
53
39
55
44
Increasing teachers' satisfaction with their school
46
47
43
52
43
Increasing parents' satisfaction with their children's school
43
47
33
51
39
Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 2
TEACHER RECRUITMENT & RETENTION PRIORITIES
"Many solutions have been suggested to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers in America's public schools.  Given that there are limited resources, do you think that each of the following is something that must be done as one of the highest priorities, should be done as a lower priority, or should no additional resources be devoted to it?"
Base: All adults

Must be done as one of the highest priorities
Should be done as a lower priority
No additional resources devoted
%
%
%
Giving schools more ability to remove teachers who are not serving students well
73
18
9
Using measurements of teacher effectiveness that are based in significant part on student growth
59
28
13
Providing more or better opportunities for professional development for teachers
55
33
12
Efforts by schools and districts to improve teachers' job satisfaction
51
33
15
Providing better teacher bonuses and salary increases
45
35
20
Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 3A
SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT PRIORITY FOR TEACHER RECRUITMENT & RETENTION – By Generation
"While all of the following might be important, if only one could be funded which one should it be?"
Base: All adults

TOTAL
Generation
Echo Boomers (18-35)
Generation X
(36-47)
Baby Boomers (48-66)
Matures (67+)
%
%
%
%
%
Giving schools more ability to remove teachers who are not serving students well
43
31
39
50
61
Using measurements of teacher effectiveness that are based in significant part on student growth
21
25
20
18
17
Providing more or better opportunities for professional development for teachers
14
16
14
14
9
Providing better teacher bonuses and salary increases
13
16
17
11
6
Efforts by schools and districts to improve teachers' job satisfaction
9
12
9
8
7
Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 3B
SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT PRIORITY FOR TEACHER RECRUITMENT & RETENTION – By Parents and Party
 "While all of the following might be important, if only one could be funded which one should it be?"
Base: All adults

TOTAL
Party Identification
Parents
Republican
Democrat
Independent
Yes
No
%
%
%
%
%
%
Giving schools more ability to remove teachers who are not serving students well
43
53
33
45
36
45
Using measurements of teacher effectiveness that are based in significant part on student growth
21
18
24
18
21
20
Providing more or better opportunities for professional development for teachers
14
10
14
17
14
14
Providing better teacher bonuses and salary increases
13
13
16
11
16
12
Efforts by schools and districts to improve teachers' job satisfaction
9
7
12
9
12
8
Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 4A
PERCEPTIONS OF TEACHER INCOME IN LOCAL COMMUNITY – By Parental Status, Party & Gender
"Do you feel teachers in the public schools in your community are paid too little, too much or about the right amount?"
Base: All adults

TOTAL
Parents
Party Identification
Gender
Yes
No
Republican
Democrat
Independent
Male
Female
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
Too much
12
11
12
18
5
14
17
7
About the right amount
33
32
33
37
29
34
34
31
Too little
46
51
45
39
56
44
40
52
Not sure
9
6
10
6
10
9
9
9
Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding

TABLE 4B
PERCEPTIONS OF TEACHER INCOME IN LOCAL COMMUNITY – By Region & Year
"Do you feel teachers in the public schools in your community are paid too little, too much or about the right amount?"
Base: All adults

Region
Year
East
Midwest
South
West
2012
2009
2008
1965
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
Too much
18
16
5
12
12
8
6
2
About the right amount
42
34
28
30
33
29
24
56
Too little
31
43
57
48
46
54
59
42
Not sure
9
7
10
10
9
10
10
n/a
Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding
Note: 1965 survey conducted face-to-face; data should be used for comparison purposes only, and not as a direct trend.

TABLE 5A
PERCEPTIONS OF PUBLIC SCHOOL SPENDING IN LOCAL COMMUNITY – By Parental Status, Party & Gender
"Do you feel too little, too much, or about the right amount of money is being spent on public schools in your community?"
Base: All adults

TOTAL
Parents
Party Identification
Gender
Yes
No
Republican
Democrat
Independent
Male
Female
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
Too much
15
14
16
21
8
18
20
11
About the right amount
27
25
27
31
23
29
29
25
Too little
50
57
48
39
63
46
46
54
Not sure
8
4
9
8
6
7
5
10
Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 5B
PERCEPTIONS OF PUBLIC SCHOOL SPENDING IN LOCAL COMMUNITY – By Region & Year
"Do you feel too little, too much, or about the right amount of money is being spent on public schools in your community?"
Base: All adults

Region
Year
East
Midwest
South
West
2012
2009
2008
1965
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
Too much
16
19
10
18
15
14
13
12
About the right amount
36
28
24
21
27
26
20
56
Too little
42
48
55
54
50
51
57
32
Not sure
6
6
11
6
8
9
10
n/a


Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding
Note: 1965 survey conducted face-to-face; data should be used for comparison purposes only, and not as a direct trend,


Methodology
 
This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between July 16 and 23, 2012 among 2,311 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.


All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.


Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.


 

SOURCE Harris Interactive