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Americans See Teacher Performance and Positive School Atmosphere as Keys to Improving Student Achievement in Public Schools

September 27, 2012

NEW YORK, Sept. 27, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — 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.

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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).

So What?

Regarding satisfaction, Michelle Gosney, Sr. Research Manager for Harris Poll School Pulse, said, “Our Harris Poll School Pulse database of stakeholder satisfaction measurements from school districts across the U.S. indicates clear trends that more satisfied students display better behavior, higher engagement and stronger performance in school; satisfied teachers and staff are more motivated and productive; and happier parents are more supportive of the school.”

“Given the clear importance of a positive school environment,” adds Gosney, “measuring school climate, as well as analyzing, communicating, and acting on data are efforts educators can make to address these issues that a majority of Americans, especially those who are underserved and with higher needs, believe are important for improving student achievement.”

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 Very Important Important NOT IMPORTANT Not that important    Not at all important
                        (NET)                            (NET)
                         ----                             ----
                   %      %           %             %          %               %
                  ---    ---         ---           ---        ---             ---
    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   Should be done as a     No additional resources
                                           the highest priorities      lower priority               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        Baby Boomers (48-66)    Matures (67+)
                                                 (36-47)
    ---                                           ------
                      %                       %         %           %           %
                     ---                     ---       ---         ---         ---
    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.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

The Harris Poll(®) #56, September 27, 2012

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll® and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers proprietary solutions in the areas of market and customer insight, corporate brand and reputation strategy, and marketing, advertising, public relations and communications research. Harris possesses expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Additionally, Harris has a portfolio of multi-client offerings that complement our custom solutions while maximizing our client’s research investment. Serving clients in more than 215 countries and territories through our North American and European offices, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

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SOURCE Harris Interactive


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