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Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

September 18, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Americans back teacher ‘bar’ exam, divided on school change

The question of how best to train, and evaluate, teachers has become a proverbial third rail in the politics of education.

Should their pay be linked to students’ academic performance? Their own advanced-level studies? Or to time on the job?

Answers to these questions have tended to electrify school-watchers of every political stripe. But Wednesday, Gallup released a new poll that shows a surprising degree of unanimity: 81 percent of respondents — Democrats, Republicans, Independents and public school parents  say they favor a national certification exam for teachers, similar to that required for doctors and lawyers.

(Such a standard  the National Board Certification — already exists, though it is voluntary and only 3 percent of teachers actually take it, Gallup reports.)

The PDK/Gallup poll of more than 1,000 American adults also found striking consensus around the issue of student test scores: only 31 percent of public school parents think states should use such scores to rate teacher effectiveness, a figure that tracks pretty closely to the overall response rate of 38 percent and suggests that educators have successfully made the case that testing, in itself, is not an accurate measure of what goes on in any classroom.

There was similar agreement on questions about the most important skills for high school graduates. Eighty-six percent of respondents said dependability, persistence and teamwork  not high test scores, or even great grades  were the best forecasters for determining which students would get a good job.

Yet on at least one measure  the need for “change” in primary education  polarization continues to reign: Forty-two percent of parents think elementary schools need an overhaul, and another 42 percent think things are just fine.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Gallop poll

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