In a new poll out today, Americans say they want teacher preparation programs to raise the bar for entrance, provide longer training periods for practice teaching, and require new teachers to pass a rigorous certification exam akin to the ones required of lawyers and doctors.
Before we jump into the results, my usual caveat: Polls are a snapshot and not a litmus test. People who take part in polls are often asked to render judgment on complex topics with little or no background information. At the same time, longstanding polls like the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup, now in its 46th year, can be useful as quick glances at the public perspectives on key issues.
Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and former president of Columbia University’s Teachers College, told me what jumped out at him in the new PDK/Gallup poll was the increased percentage of parents who said they didn’t want their children to become teachers: 43 percent vs. 33 percent in 2005. He was also struck by the level of agreement on teacher quality issues among Democrats and Republicans, and how many parents said they wanted to see changes in their children’s schools. (Read the full poll results here.)
The predictable headline from today’s polling data will be that 81 percent of respondents favor a certification exam for teachers. While this is a new question for PDK/Gallup, it’s hardly the first time the idea of a bar exam for teachers has been floated. And there is already a national certification exam, although it’s optional: About 100,000 of the nation’s 3 million public school teachers have taken it, Gallup reported. (For another angle on this issue, take a look at the edTPA exam, created in partnership by Stanford University and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.)