14th 2010
AP Education Poll: Firing Bad Teachers Not Only Issue On Which Public Weighs In

Posted under Education Politics & Journalism & Parents & PPC & Research & Teachers

Quick hit for today from The Associated Press, highlighting results from a new education survey:

An overwhelming majority of Americans are frustrated that it’s too difficult to get rid of bad teachers, while most also believe that teachers aren’t paid enough, a new poll shows.

The Associated Press-Stanford University poll found that 78 percent think it should be easier for school administrators to fire poorly performing teachers. Yet overall, the public wants to reward teachers — 57 percent say they are paid too little, with just 7 percent believing they are overpaid and most of the rest saying they’re paid about right.

A full copy of the survey data is available here. When asked about problems facing American schools today, reuspondents listed the following as “extremely” or “very” serious, in descending order:

  1. Lack of student discipline (59%)
  2. Fighting, violence, and gangs (56%)
  3. Getting and keeping good teachers (55%)
  4. Low test scores (50%)
  5. Low expectations for student achievement (49%)
  6. Overcrowding (44%)
  7. Students not spending enough time in school (41%)
  8. Placing emphasis on the wrong subjects (39%)
  9. Outdated textbooks (38%)
  10. The quality of the curriculum (37%)
  11. Too many bad teachers (35%)
  12. The quality of instruction by teachers (34%)
  13. The condition of school buildings (25%)
  14. Availability of athletic facilities (20%)

Another question regards who deserves a lot or a great deal of blame for the problems in our schools, again listed in descending order:

  1. Parents (68%)
  2. State education officials (65%)
  3. Federal education officials (59%)
  4. Local school administrators (53%)
  5. The students themselves (46%) [Yikes!]
  6. Teachers unions (45%)
  7. Teachers (35%)

While 78 percent support making it easier to fire poorly performing teachers, a very respectable 71 percent also support making it easier to fire principals at underperforming schools. Interesting.

One other note for those who like to deconstruct polling results: 30 percent of respondents identify as Democrats, with an additional 16 percent saying they lean that way politically (for a total of 46 percent). Meanwhile, 21 percent identify as Republicans, with an additional 15 percent saying they lean the GOP’s way (for a total of 36 percent). Is the sample good? Might it affect opinions at all of who is to blame?

At this point, I’m not sure what use to make of all the information, except perhaps to start a discussion about the accuracy of the public’s perception, and how it might inform the politics of crafting education reform policy. Do people really get what the problems are? Do they truly understand who is responsible? What say you?


4 Responses to “AP Education Poll: Firing Bad Teachers Not Only Issue On Which Public Weighs In”

  1. mazenko on 16 Dec 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    Polls also reveal an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that parents are most at fault for failing schools and poor students. While there are, clearly, many mediocre schools and teachers, strong parental influence enables students to make the most of even a mediocre teacher. Additionally, in areas where charters and choice have made a difference – such as the Harlem Children’s Zone – the role of committed parents is the key. In fact, only involved parents and students actually pursue choice. Granted, we can’t force people to parent well, so we certainly should make sure schools do everything they can to reach kids and boost achievement regardless of parental involvement. However, public school critics need to be much more realistic in their criticisms.

  2. Eddie on 16 Dec 2010 at 2:15 pm #

    Yes, we have significant cultural problems, but that doesn’t preclude pursuing policy-oriented solutions. One key then is to get more parents actively involved in school choice. Our School Choice for Kids website ( is one way of doing that. Nevertheless, there will remain the anointed who believe that enlightened school administrators know better than parents. What to do with them? Ensure they have less power, not more, over kids’ futures.

  3. mazenko on 16 Dec 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    Many teachers and school administrators do know better than a great many parents – as is evidenced by my previous comments. Anyone who thinks the biological status of parents guarantees knowledge of “what is best for kids” is completely removed from social realities. Parents are not automatically qualified to make good decisions simply because they gave birth. Thus, the criticism of “the anointed” in education is pessimistically ideological and quite naive.

    Clearly, involved parents are precisely the ones who advocate for their kids. But the average parent chooses the convenient school, not the “best” one, as they have no understanding of how to judge it, and no interest in making sure their kids contribute to it being one of the “best” ones.

  4. AP-Stanford Education Survey: Students and Parents to Blame on 17 Jan 2011 at 4:24 am #

    [...] is Watching – the sharpest 5 year old in the entire education debate – took a look at some of the data, too. He notes that: “While 78 percent support making it easier to fire poorly performing [...]

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