Special Report

Poll: Teachers Support Standards-With Hesitation

By Kathryn M. Doherty — January 11, 2001 3 min read
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Education Week’s “National Survey of Public School Teachers, 2000" was conducted by Belden Russonello & Stewart, a Washington-based opinion-research group. The national survey of 1,019 public school teachers was conducted by telephone Aug. 28 through Sept. 17, 2000.

Teachers of English, mathematics, science, and social studies in K-12 were polled. The sample for the survey was randomly selected from a list of more than 2 million public school teachers compiled by Market Data Retrieval, a Shelton, Conn.-based company that conducts education market research.

All sample surveys are subject to possible sampling error; that is, the results may differ from those that would be obtained if the entire population under study were interviewed. The margin of sampling error for the entire survey is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence.

The sampling error is larger for subgroups in the survey. To ensure that each subgroup was represented in the correct proportion to the population as a whole, the data have been weighted by grade level taught, urbanicity of the school district, and U.S. Census region, based on the National Center for Education Statistics’ estimates for public school teachers in the United States.

Selected Highlights:

  • Public school teachers support standards. Eighty-seven percent of teachers agreed that raising standards was a “move in the right direction,’ and 74 percent said the level of standards in their states was “about right.’ Also, a majority of teachers reported that students were working harder and learning more than in past years.
  • Teachers reported that behavior was changing in classrooms. Seventy-nine percent said the curriculum was more demanding than it was three years earlier, and 64 percent of those teachers attributed the change to standards. Sixty-three percent said teacher expectations of students were higher than three years earlier. Sixty-six percent said that students were writing more, and 69 percent said teachers were collaborating more than before.
  • But the survey results also suggest that in the past year, teachers received only modest training to implement standards. In the past year, 28 percent had no training in understanding and using state academic standards; 30 percent had no training that provided an overview of a state test or assessment; and nearly half had no training in how to use test results for diagnostic purposes.
  • Having the tools needed to implement standards is also an issue for teachers. About two-thirds of teachers reported having “some” or “little” access to training in state assessments, and more than half the teachers in the survey reported having “some” or “little” access to units, lesson plans, or modules that matched state standards. Seventy percent of teachers said they did not have enough time to cover the material needed to meet standards.
  • Teachers are feeling pressure from state testing and accountability systems and believe there is too much focus on state tests. Sixty-seven percent of teachers said their teaching had become “somewhat” or “far too much” focused on state tests. And 66 percent said they were concentrating on tested information to the detriment of other important areas of learning. Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed had instructed their classes in such test-taking skills as pacing and filling in bubbles to answer multiple-choice questions.
  • Teachers are generally opposed to making decisions about student promotion or graduation based solely on state tests. Only 11 percent of teachers would support a policy to require that all students pass tests before moving up to the next grade; 88 percent said teachers and principals should consider test scores along with grades and their own individual assessments of students. Only 37 percent of teachers supported high school exit exams without attention to other parts of students’ records.

A version of this article appeared in the January 11, 2001 edition of Education Week

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