Quality Teaching Tops School Concerns, Poll Says
By Tiffany Danitz, Staff Writer
An overwhelming majority of Americans would rather have quality teachers in public schools than give parents vouchers for private school tuition, a poll released Wednesday (5/16) by Recruiting New Teachers(RNT) shows.
The nationwide survey was conducted in late August and early September 2000. Part of an RNT report, the survey was funded by the Ford Foundation and Washington Mutual, a financial services company that supports public education. RNT worked with The Peter Harris Research Group, and the sampling error was plus or minus 2 percent.
"The Essential Profession: American Education At The Crossroads," found that 84 percent of 2,501 respondents believed that policymakers should do everything they can to put fully qualified teachers in every classroom instead of giving parents money to send their child to a private or parochial school.
A majority of the respondents (60 percent) also felt that the quality of the teacher has a greater influence on learning than setting standards of learning (28 percent) or testing student performance (11 percent).
"Putting a qualified teacher in every classroom out-polls every other strategy," said Louis Harris, a co-author of the report. The national survey probed public feelings toward teaching, an opportunity to get a good education and school reforms.
The survey focused further on how people define quality teachers. Respondents listed classroom management skills, deep knowledge of the subject being taught, an understanding of how to teach and how children learn, as the most important qualifications for any teacher.
Twenty five percent of the respondents said there is a nationwide problem with hiring incompetent teachers. This may be why 80 percent of the respondents would like parents to receive information about their child's teacher's qualifications at the start of each school year.
The report also examined the political impact of education. Almost 60 percent of those surveyed said their vote would hinge on a candidate's position on schools. More than half believed the US Congress has the power to improve public education, nearly half said the state legislature has the power, and the same number say the US President holds the most sway. Governors and local school boards were believed to have the power to bring about change by 43 percent of respondents. (In this section, more than one response was allowed.)