Over the past week, Civitas Poll results have been a frequent topic of conversation.
Today, let’s briefly talk about recent results from two national education polls. Last week Education Next released results of their 2018 Education Next Poll and found, growing public support for teacher pay, school expenditures, charter schools and universal vouchers. This poll has interesting techniques and the results are always presented in a visually appealing way (see here).
Earlier this week Phi Delta Kappan (PDK) released results of the 2018 PDK Poll on Public Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the PDK poll. As the name implies, the poll measures changes in attitudes toward the public schools and the education profession. A few findings are worth noting.
PDK reports that 66 percent of respondents said that teacher pay in their community is too low. A surprising 73 percent of respondents said they would support teachers who went on strike for higher pay.
Teacher pay is always an important topic to query. How you ask a question is instructive. When asking about teacher pay or school spending, Education Next Polls frequently ask questions where respondents are provided information about actual spending or salary levels. In nearly all cases, support for teacher pay and additional spending declined when respondents were supplied with additional information (See Ed Next 2015 Poll and Ed Next 2016 Poll.
A press release on the 2016 Education Next Poll results noted the impact of such information:
Teacher salaries. The percentage of the public favoring higher salaries for teachers, at 65%, reached its highest point since 2008. Seventy-six percent of Democrats favor an increase, as compared to 52% of Republicans. However, respondents, on average, under-estimate the current salary level of the average teacher in their state—$57,000—by approximately 30%. When provided with this information, backing for increases is just 41%.
That’s interesting. I wonder how the results would have been impacted had respondents known actual teacher salaries and spending levels in their local communities. Other topics include:
The PDK Poll also queries parents about wanting their children to grow up to be teachers. Only 46 percent of respondents said they would like to have their child take up teaching in the public schools. That’s the first time that figure has ever been below 50 percent. Ten years ago, this figure was 70 percent.
Grading the schools
Like many respondents, when asked to grade schools, respondents seem to like the schools geographically closest to them.
70 percent of respondents graded their child’s school as an A or B; 22 percent received C grades and 8 percent received D or F grades.
43 percent of respondents graded public schools in their local community A or B, 38 percent received C grades while 19 percent received D or F grades.
19 percent of respondents graded the public schools nationally, A or B, 46 percent gave the schools a C, while 35 percent of respondents gave the public schools D or F grades.
Finally, the PDK Poll also asked respondents about whether they thought students today were getting a better or worse education than when they were in school.
55 percent of respondents said students today receive a worse education than what they experienced when they were in school. However, several questions reveal that schools were doing a better job today in some categories. These include: educating children of all abilities and backgrounds (55 percent), encouraging critical thinking (52 percent) and ensuring respect for all (51 percent). On the negative side, respondents think today’s schools do a worse job of teaching interpersonal skills (55 percent), teaching facts and figures (56 percent) and preparing young people for the work force (58 percent).