What Do Teachers Think?

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There are some compelling nuggets to be found in a new survey of teacher attitudes put out by the non-partisan research firm Public Agenda. The picture is decidedly mixed, with all sides of various education debates sure to claim victory. The only people not claiming victory, it seems, are teachers, 76% of whom feel that they are scapegoats for all the problems facing education.

It s just not clear how useful the survey will be to policymakers, given some of its mixed messages. While most (53%) teachers think that standardized tests are seriously flawed, 87% of teachers surveyed believe that students should have to pass a standardized test to be promoted. Similarly, on merit pay, while 56% of teachers say that administrators need more freedom to financially reward outstanding teachers, 63% of teachers also say that merit pay would lead to unhealthy competition and jealousy, with a majority believing that principals would play favorites.

The most interesting results respond to questions about unions, tenure, and alternative certification. Less than one in five teachers believes that the union almost always speaks for them, but four in five believe that their conditions would worsen without it. About six in ten teachers say that tenure is no guarantee that tenured teachers have worked hard and proved themselves. Finally, about half of teachers think that some form of alternative certification is a good idea compared to only one-third who oppose it with two-thirds also saying that their colleagues who graduated from alternative certification are good or excellent teachers.