published Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Poll: Most want bad teachers to be fired

ATLANTA -- An overwhelming majority of Americans are frustrated that it's too difficult to get rid of bad teachers, while most also believe that teachers aren't paid enough, a new poll shows.

The Associated Press-Stanford University poll found that 78 percent think it should be easier for school administrators to fire poorly performing teachers. Yet overall, the public wants to reward teachers -- 57 percent say they are paid too little, with just 7 percent believing they are overpaid and most of the rest saying they're paid about right.

School districts have struggled for years over how to keep good teachers. This has led to controversial techniques like using standardized test scores to measure how much a student has learned in a teacher's class. Some districts, like New York City schools, are considering making the data public so parents know how teachers rate.

The Los Angeles school district announced in late August it would adopt such a model to assess teacher performance. Unions have fought against the release of such data, saying it's an unproven methodology that doesn't truly reflect how a teacher is performing in the classroom.

Carmen Williams, 53, an office manager from Yates City, Ill., said the issue is simple: Pay teachers more and get rid of the bad ones.

"Good teachers are hard to find, and one of the reasons they are hard to find is because they're not paid enough to support themselves, especially if they have a family," she said. "There are very good teachers out there, but there comes a day when they need to retire and they don't and what happens at that point is the kids suffer."

It's not just bad teachers that people want set loose. Nearly as many in the AP-Stanford poll -- 71 percent -- say it should be easier to fire principals at schools where students are performing poorly.

Half say that teachers' salaries should be based on their students' performance on statewide tests and on the evaluations they receive from local school officials. About 1 in 4 say pay should be determined solely by school administrators' ratings, while under 1 in 5 say salaries should be based only on how well students do on statewide testing.

While eager to send bad teachers packing, just 35 percent say a large number of bad teachers is a serious problem in America's schools and only 45 percent say teachers' unions are to blame. In contrast, more than half are critical of parents and federal, state and local education officials, and 55 percent say the inability to recruit and keep good teachers is a big problem.

Larry Cuban, a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, says some of the public's negative views come from frequent criticism from policymakers and in news reports.

"It's become a throwaway line: 'Oh, sure U.S. schools are lousy,"' said Cuban. "I think we have schizophrenia in the U.S. that we believe all U.S. schools are lousy except the schools we send our kids to."

To help school districts cope, the Obama administration has begun programs like the $4 billion "Race to the Top," which gave money to 11 states and Washington, D.C., in exchange for promises of innovative reforms to raise student achievement and improve graduation rates. Part of the requirements for getting the money included a teacher performance pay program and better use of student achievement data to make sure teachers are doing their jobs.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the poll results show that parents understand that teachers are not to blame for all the woes in public education.

"The scapegoating of teachers must stop and collective responsibility must start," Weingarten said. "This should be a wakeup call to education leaders and policymakers that all of us have to do our part. Of course teachers are important, but they can't do it all and policymakers have to stop blaming them."

People in the poll were closely divided over whether teachers should be allowed to strike, with just over half in favor.

The AP-Stanford poll on education was conducted Sept. 23-30 by Abt SRBI, Inc. It involved interviews on landline and cellular telephones with 1,001 adults nationwide and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

Stanford's participation in this project was made possible by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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xsiveporsche said...

I think pay should be like any other business. Get raises on your merits and ability to do your job well.Bad teachers get put on probation and then fired if they do not improve that year. Teachers pay is not that bad considering they get the summers off and every holiday no matter what. A break at Christmas, fall break, spring break. The rest of us should get so much time off.

December 15, 2010 at 6:55 a.m.

I have to agree. Obviously not every child will have flying colors in their grades, but overall, if their set of general students are getting good grades, they should be rewarded with a raise. I do not want my tax dollars to go to a teacher that pops in a movie everyday and tells kids to take notes. I find that disrespectful. I have had my fair share of good and bad teachers. Some teachers are just not cut out for it. Maybe a trial period needs to be in place for new teachers. If they fail to cross over, then out they go.

December 15, 2010 at 7:24 a.m.
XMarine said...

Teachers have the WORSE job: majority of students care more about fashion,latest cell phone & video game than studies.Receive ZERO discipline at home & god forbid a teacher gives a C or lower grade.Think about it,how would you like to have your pay tied to the performance of kids way.My daughter was a teacher & saw the light & got a better paying job where her pay depends upon her work not the progress of kids who think the computer does all the work.HOORAY for my daughter !!

December 15, 2010 at 7:49 a.m.
dao1980 said...

Teachers and police officers, both are underpaid positions that are filled by unqualified individuals. Sure, there are wonderful teaches and honest cops out there, but just like a few bad apples can spoil the bunch, a few good ones cant save it.

December 15, 2010 at 8:37 a.m.
Musicman375 said...

"Maybe a trial period needs to be in place for new teachers. If they fail to cross over, then out they go."

That's exactly how it works in Hamilton county (possibly all of TN) and has for years. New teachers are on a yearly contract for their first three years. After the third year, they are either offered tenure based on their performance, or are let go from the system. Also, newly licensed teachers in TN are alloted five years to obtain tenure in order to automatically extend their license, per TN Dept of Education guidelines. Otherwise, they have to retake their certification tests when the apprentice license expires at the end of the fifth year.

December 15, 2010 at 8:53 a.m.
mikedh311 said...

My wife is a teacher and from what i see first hand is most problems in public schools stem from the administration. One thing that don't tell you when becoming a teacher is the principle is never available and most times not even in the building. Discipline issues go untouched and if sent to the office they come right back to the classroom with no action. Teachers end up focusing all there attention on these kids and ruining the lesson plan of the rest of the kids. I have seen fights, threats, sexual issues, hitting of the teacher and more go completely unchecked. My wife is a good teacher and her kids score well, but it's awful to me she is a degreed professional with student loan debt and only gets 35k/year for working 50-60 hours/week and on weekends. No wonder good quality teachers are a dying breed.

December 15, 2010 at 10:24 a.m.
alohaboy said...

I have a brother-in-law who was a public school teacher. For many years he taught in a well-to-do area of the system and his students excelled in their testing. He moved to a low income area in the same system to see if he could get similar results. After three years of teaching in that school, he had totally failed to raise the test results at that school. I don't think he failed but somehow the system and the kids failed him.

December 15, 2010 at 11:16 a.m.
jpo3136 said...

The reality is that we often spend no time at all with young people when it comes to providing them with one-on-one, problem solving coaching and support. Instead, we rot in front of TV sets or do something like that. Then, when the kids don't learn or do well in life, we blame public school teachers.

We may have bad teachers out there, as we would have bad performers in any profession; but, we're not doing even a fraction of what we could do to give them half a chance at leading our people.

We have spent so much time insulting our own chances and achievements that the younger people will give up, in advance, if we don't change our ways.

December 15, 2010 at 12:35 p.m.
clinthardwood said...

The lack of principal accountability is an issue. I've been under one truly competent principal in my career, the rest not being smart enough, motivated enough, or interested enough in curriculum to be more than a building superintendent. There also is a serious issue of cronyism in this district.

December 15, 2010 at 2:24 p.m.
fairmon said...

The evaluators have to be competent for the system to work. Therefore, the system is badly broken. The future of our country is in education. We have a few excellent institutions and some excellent students. Those students will be successful and the government will take from them and distribute it to those the system and their dependent parents failed.

December 15, 2010 at 7:07 p.m.
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