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American Public: Make Teachers Apprentice for a Year

The American public has some very specific opinions about how teachers can become better at their jobs in helping K-12 students learn. Six out of 10 people believe teaching colleges should be more rigorous about whom they accept. Eight out of 10 would like to see teachers pass board certification in addition to earning their degrees. And seven out of 10 would push for at least a year of apprenticeship under a certified teacher before a new teacher is given his or her own class.

Those are some of the results out of the second phase of this year's education poll conducted by PDK, a global association of education professionals, and Gallup. The first phase was published last month and focused on public education initiatives, such as the Common Core State Standards. The poll, financed by the Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation, has been conducted for the last 46 years in order to understand the opinions of the American public about K-12 education issues. Interviews were conducted in English with 1,001 adults aged 18 and older. The margin of error is about 4.6 at the 95 percent confidence level.

The topic of teacher performance evaluations is important to Americans for the sake of helping teachers improve their abilities to teach (77 percent reported that they were very important); to determine salaries and bonuses (46 percent said they found this very important); and to document "ineffectiveness that could lead to a teacher's dismissal (65 percent said they considered it very important). However, tying student results in standardized tests to teacher evaluations isn't popular at all; only 38 percent said they favored that idea, down from 52 percent in 2012.

"We shouldn't be surprised that Americans want great teachers in their classrooms," said William Bushaw, chief executive officer of PDK and co-director of the survey. "But it appears we've reached a real turning point in public attitudes. While we can speculate about all the factors that brought us here, there's no longer any question about whether the public supports a major overhaul in the preparation and evaluation of teachers."

These results surfaced at the same time that the profession of teaching is undergoing a reset. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation in 2013 set new rules for minimum academic standards that students must have to gain entrance to schools of education. And the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education is endorsing edTPA, a performance assessment that measures classroom readiness of teachers.

In other aspects of education, more than half of respondents said they agreed that all high school students should have their own computer or tablet to use at school and that they should have more opportunities to earn credits through online courses.

The push to give students a taste of the working world is gaining traction among Americans. Almost nine in 10 people said they agreed or strongly agreed with the idea of giving high school students more education about possible career choices. Six in 10 said they agreed or strongly agreed with the suggestion that students participate in a volunteer or paid internship during high school. And while only 24 percent of respondents said performing well on standardized tests such as ACT and SAT were very important, 86 percent said that learning skills like "dependability, persistence and teamwork" were very important.

Also, the value of college appears to be waning. In 2010, three-quarters of respondents said a college education was "very important" and 21 percent said it was "fairly important." This year, only 43 percent said it was "very important" and 48 percent said it was "fairly important."

"We were genuinely surprised by the divided response on the importance of college," added Bushaw. "Americans seem to be rethinking the idea that a college education is essential for success in the U.S. economy, perhaps in part because parents are less certain they will be able to pay for it."

The full results of the poll are available online here.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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