PDK/Gallup Poll: Americans Trust Teachers More than Tests

September 2013, Volume 37, Issue 1

Testing, evaluations, and accountability measures are drawing more attention in education reform, especially with the introduction of Common Core State Standards. However, a new poll by PDK/Gallup suggests that though Americans favor holding educators accountable, they also remain skeptical of testing practices and generally view educators favorably.

Most Americans (65 percent) say they have trust and confidence in public school principals. Interestingly, this number is even higher for respondents under age 40, with 70 percent placing their trust in school leaders. The same is true for public school teachers: 72 percent of respondents say they trusting teachers, versus 78 percent of those under 40. This suggests that younger generations may have more faith in educators than older ones do.

Accountability Trends

Accountability and evaluation remain key issues in the debate about the educational system. When asked whether or not performance reviews of teachers should be released to the public, 60 percent of Americans say they should. Although most Americans want teachers to be publicly accountable, how these performance reviews should be evaluated was not specified. The poll indicates that 58 percent of Americans oppose student performance on standardized tests as a requirement for teacher evaluations. This is up from only 47 percent who opposed it last year.

Standardized testing has proved to be largely unpopular with the American public. When asked whether or not they believed standardized testing has helped, hurt, or made no difference to the performance of local public schools, only 22 percent say that it helped. Compare that to the 36 percent who say it hurt, and 41 percent who say it made no difference. The vast majority of the public appears to think that standardized testing measures haven’t had a positive impact on public education.

“Americans trust and have confidence in public school teachers and principals, one of our strongest indicators each year,” the study’s authors argue. “Our sense is that the public will not tolerate a system in which teachers and principals are evaluated on test scores. Policy makers would be smarter to invest in systems that focus on improving teacher skills.”

Ned Colbert, NAESP editorial assistant

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