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School & District Management

Here’s How the Public Views Teachers, Their Salaries, and Their Impact

By Andrew Ujifusa — April 17, 2018 2 min read
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As the political fallout continues from teacher protests in several states, it’s worth revisiting how the general public has said it feels about teachers in recent polls. Where does public opinion stand now, and how might it change in the future?

The 2017 poll of various K-12 issues by the journal Education Next found that members of the general public would categorize 25 percent of teachers at their local schools as “excellent” and 33 percent as “good.” Another 28 percent of teachers were called “satisfactory” and just 15 percent were “unsatisfactory.” Overall, parents who were surveyed put a larger share of teachers (30 percent) in the “excellent” category.

When provided information about public school teacher salaries, 36 percent of members of the general public then told Education Next that those salaries should increase. Meanwhile, 56 percent said they should stay about the same, while just 7 percent said they should decrease. However, a plurality (49 percent) of the general public opposed giving teachers tenure, Education Next reported.

• More on that teacher pay issue: A Rasmussen Reports poll from earlier this month found that 62 percent of those surveyed said teachers are paid too little, an increase from 59 percent two years ago and the highest percentage stating this opinion to Rasmussen since 2008.

• Last December, Gallup surveyed the public about the “honesty and ethical standards” of people in 22 various professions. Twenty percent of those surveyed said they gave teachers “very high” marks in those areas, the third-highest rating for professions behind nurses (27 percent) and military officers (22 percent). Forty-six percent said they gave teachers “high” ratings, trailing nurses, military officers, medical doctors, and pharmacists.

• When Phi Delta Kappa, in its 2017 education survey, asked members of the public about the biggest problems facing their public schools, just 7 percent said “lack of good teachers.” (See page 26.)

• The general public is one thing. But more specifically, what do young people think, including those who may have young children in school? Last August, the GenForward survey, which surveys a national sample of more than 1,750 adults age 18-34, asked for opinions on the best way to improve schools in their local school districts. Here’s what the survey revealed (from page 21):

• Here’s a related survey: A 2016 poll commissioned by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights found that a majority of African-American and Latino parents said they wanted better teachers in public schools, as well as higher expectations in schools. Low-quality teachers ranked among the top reasons why those parents said their schools are failing their children.

• And then there are missed opportunities. A working paper released in February by Vanderbilt University Professor Larry Bartels about public attitudes towards various professions and high-profile people found that once again nurses were very well-regarded by both Democrats and Republicans, along with farmers and construction workers. What was one of the professions Bartels left out? Teaching.

Education Week Librarian Maya Riser-Kositsky contributed to this post.

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