TIME Poll Results: Americans' Views on Teacher Tenure, Merit Pay and Other Education Reforms

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Based on a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted August 17 thru 19, here are some of the results of a TIME poll on the state of public education in America. Highlights include respondents' feelings about parental involvement, ambivalence about teachers unions and overwhelming optimism about the current potential for reform.

1. Do you think that public schools in this country are in a 'crisis,' or not?
In a crisis: 67%
Not in a crisis: 29%
No answer/don't know: 3%

2. Do you think it is possible to make changes that would dramatically improve student performance in our public schools — or do you think this is a problem that is impossible to solve?
Possible to make changes to improve student performance: 90%
Problem is impossible to solve: 9%
No answer/don't know: 2%

3. Would you be willing to pay higher taxes to improve the public schools, or not?
Willing to pay higher taxes: 56%
Not willing: 42%
No answer/don't know: 2%

4. What do you think would improve student achievement the most?
More involved parents: 52%
More effective teachers: 24%
Student rewards: 6%
A longer school day: 6%
More time on test prep: 6%
No answer/don't know: 6%

5. In general, do you think teachers are overpaid, paid about right or underpaid given their level of training and importance to society?
Underpaid: 61%
Paid about right: 26%
Overpaid: 7%
No answer/don't know: 5%

6. Should teachers' evaluations be based in part on their students' progress on standardized tests?
Yes: 64%
No: 31%
No answer/don't know: 4%

7. Do you support or oppose tenure for teachers, the practice of guaranteeing teachers lifetime job security after they have worked for a certain amount of time?
Support tenure: 28%
Oppose tenure: 66%
No answer/don't know: 6%

8. Do you support or oppose "merit pay," the concept of paying teachers according to their effectiveness?
Support merit pay: 71%
Oppose merit pay: 23%
No answer/don't know: 6%

9. Which view comes closer to your own: "Teachers unions help make schools better" or "Teachers unions are an obstacle that keeps schools from getting better"?
Teachers unions help make schools better: 35%
Teachers unions are an obstacle that keeps schools from getting better: 50%
No answer/don't know: 15%

10. How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
Many of the smartest people in society don't go into teaching because being a teacher doesn't pay enough: 76% strongly or somewhat agree
Teaching is among the most under-appreciated professions in the U.S.: 77% strongly or somewhat agree
Tenured, long-time teachers are not motivated to work hard: 56% strongly or somewhat agree

11. What do you think would improve teacher effectiveness the most?
Better training in universities: 30%
Mentoring by more experienced teachers: 30%
Merit pay: 20%
Higher salaries: 11%
No answer/don't know: 8%

This TIME magazine poll was conducted by telephone Aug. 17-19, 2010, among a representative national random sample of 1,000 Americans, ages 18 and older, throughout America. The margin of error for the entire sample is approximately +/- 3 percentage points. The margin of error is higher for subgroups. Surveys are subject to other error sources as well, including sampling coverage error, recording error and respondent error. Abt SRBI Public Affairs conducted all interviewing. The full TIME poll questionnaire and trend data may be found at Abt SRBI.