Poll: Americans Give Public School Teachers High Marks

The 2011 Phi Delta Kappa survey  has good news for the nation’s public school educators. More than 70 percent of Americans say they have “trust and confidence” in the men and women who are teaching. Furthermore, 69 percent give teachers in their specific community a letter grade of an A or B.

Phi Delta Kappa (PDK), a global association of education professionals, has conducted the poll in conjunction with Gallup since 1969, and this year’s poll was based on conversations with 1002 respondents.

Although the results reveal some ambivalence about education leaders and the direction of education policy in the United States, Americans hold the teaching profession in high regard. For example, three out of four Americans would encourage the brightest person they know to become an educator. Sixty-seven percent also said they would like to have a child of theirs choose a public-school teaching career, and 76 percent believe the country should be actively recruiting the highest-achieving high school students into a career in education.

“Americans expect, even demand, quality — in the food they eat, the clothes they buy, and the cars they drive. And they expect high-quality public schools,” said William Bushaw, executive director of PDK International and co-director of the PDK/Gallup poll. “This year’s PDK/Gallup poll shows that Americans believe the key to good schools is high-quality teachers. Interestingly, they have mixed opinions whether state governors or education leaders are the ones who can better ensure that our schools provide the quality they expect.”

Forty-four percent of Americans believe the most important national education program should be improving the quality of teaching. Developing demanding standards and creating better tests were rated significantly lower.

For 2010 Teacher of the Year Sarah Wessling, the poll confirms that “ as much as we need standards to guide us and curriculum to inspire us, we want our children in the capable hands of dedicated professionals who meet our children exactly where they are: yearning to be recognized for their uniqueness and challenged to realize their potential.”

Other key findings in the poll:

  • Thirty-six percent of Americans believe that lack of financial support is the biggest problem facing schools.
  • Overwhelmingly, Americans favor keeping a poorly performing school in their community open with existing teachers and principals, while providing comprehensive outside support.
  • Support for charter school is increasing, with 68 percent viewing charters favorably.
  • Support for vouchers is declining. Only-one-third of respondents approve of using public money for private schools.
  • Forty-one percent give President Obama a letter grade of an A or a B for his support of public schools, close to what he received his first year in office.