Teachers polled on public school systems

Phi Delta Kappa commissioned the Gallup Company to poll representative samples of teachers and non-teachers in order to determine attitudes toward the public schools. Results of the poll, published in the June 1989 issue of The Phi Delta Kappan indicated general dissatisfaction on the part of teachers with the educational system.

Additionally, the poll illustrated the great disparity between the views of teachers and those of the non-teaching public. The following is a partial summary of poll results:

-Because they feel it is difficult to obtain fair evaluations of merit, two-thirds of the teachers polled oppose the idea of merit pay. Furthermore, these teachers believe morale problems would result from a merit pay system. Nevertheless, 84% of laypersons favored the idea of merit pay for teachers.

-82% of the teachers, but only 37% of the public, believe teachers are underpaid.

-Teachers do not think they have the authority they need in school, particularly with regarding to establishing discipline and grading policies, determining academic standards, and deciding how school funds are spent.

-Most teachers do not believe, even after five years of “school reform” (A Nation At Risk was published in 1983), that the public schools have improved: 36% see some improvement, 38% see no change and 25% see declining conditions.

-34% of the teachers polled state that the most important problem facing public schools is lack of parent interest and support (lack of adequate financial support was also frequently mentioned).

-Generally, the public believes that discipline is the most serious problem in the schools.

-Most teachers believe that while they are doing a good job teaching, many parents are not doing a good job raising their children.

-Compared to five years ago, a much higher percentage of teachers are dissatisfied with their salaries. (The average length of a teaching career is only 8 years. Low salaries are most often mentioned as the reason for leaving the profession).

-Compared to five years ago, fewer teachers wish to see their own children pursue teaching careers.

-Teachers, evidently, are deeply upset by their perceived lack of status in society. This, despite the fact that the public claims to value teachers highly. (Among twelve professions, teachers ranked themselves first in value to society, but last in the status accorded them, while the public ranked them third in value and eighth in status.)

-Teachers did not attach as much importance as the public did to gaining an understanding of science and a knowledge of scientific, historical or geographical facts.

-Teachers are less convinced of the need for tougher promotion standards than is the layperson.

Phi Delta Kappan, Volume 70, Number 10, June 1989 pp. 785-798.

Published in ERN September/October 1989 Volume 2 Number 4

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