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New Poll Shows Public Confidence in Teachers

Today, the 44th annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public Attitudes Toward the Public Schools was released. While the poll shows considerable division reflective of the current polarization in our country, one area of consensus was trust and confidence in our teachers. The report published about the poll stated, "For the third year in a row, three out of four Americans say they have trust and confidence in the men and women who teach children in the public schools."

Quite frankly, I was a little surprised that these numbers stayed so strong considering all the bashing that teachers have endured from politicians and so-called reformers this past year. I guess the public knows first-hand that most teachers are competent, caring adults who make personal sacrifices in order to teach. The public is able to discern the good in our schools despite the political rhetoric using a few bad examples to paint a negative picture of all teachers. Teachers should feel emboldened with these results and be more willing to tell their personal stories and to share their best advice for assuring all children in America receive a great education.

I hope teachers will study the results of this poll and spend more time educating the public about the reality of what they do in our classrooms and what they need in order to do a better job. Teachers need to own their influence and to lead the change they want to see in their profession.

We can start with the issue of using standardized student tests for evaluation of teachers. The public is divided on this issue. The poll indicated that 52 percent favor and 47 percent oppose the use of student test data to determine teacher effectiveness. This result comes despite the fact that politicians, particularly governors, have touted this form of teacher evaluation as reform and have, along with "reformers," spent millions of dollars trying to convince the public of the efficacy of using testing data to evaluate teachers.

Teachers know that this is problematic. They know that they can be evaluated on their practice and that student learning should be considered as a measure of successful practice. But teachers also know that standardized test results are so heavily affected by student effort, parental resources, and methodology as to be rendered downright unfair to students as well as teachers, not to mention fraught with legal implications.

The poll also offers opportunities for teachers to give voice to the possibilities and power of common core standards, improved teacher preparation, educational opportunities for children of undocumented immigrants, and financial support for our schools. Insightful and creative teachers can assure the public that their tax dollars are well invested and will pay great dividends to our country.

Thanks to Phi Delta Kappa, under the leadership of Bill Bushaw, for providing this important data. The public owns the public schools, and we should listen carefully to their opinions. We should also express our own as informed members of that public.

Teachers, are you listening? Are you speaking up on behalf of your profession? Are you giving voice to the needs of your students? You can make a difference.


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