The latest Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward Public Schools shows strong public support for a positive rather than punitive approach to improving school and teacher performance. A solid majority, 54 percent of those polled, said the best way to turn around low-performing schools is to keep them open with the existing teachers and principal and to ensure they receive needed outside support. (This view contrasts sharply with school-turnaround models being pushed by the U.S. Department of Education, which typically call for the removal of the principal and much of the teaching staff.) Similarly, 60 percent of those surveyed said the primary purpose of evaluating teachers should be to help teachers improve, versus 26 percent who said it should be to document ineffectiveness that could lead to dismissal and 13 percent who said evaluations should be used to establish teachers’ salaries.
The survey findings show that parents, teachers, and communities all want the same thing, says AFT President Randi Weingarten, “strong neighborhood schools for all our children….good teaching in all our classrooms….Parents and the public truly understand that teaching is an incredibly complex craft that is developed and improved upon over time. The fact that the public thinks teacher evaluations should be used not as a way to cast blame, but as a way to support good teaching, should serve as a lesson for school district administrators and policymakers across the country.”