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USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Press Release

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Californians Think Teachers Should Be Paid More But Want Salaries Set By Student Performance Rather Than Seniority

CA Teachers Get High Marks from Voters and Parents; Teachers Unions Less Popular

Media Contacts:
Suzanne Wu at (213) 740-0252 or suzanne.wu@usc.edu
Michelle Salzman at (213) 821-9311 or msalzman@dornsife.usc.edu
Merrill Balassone at (213) 740-6156 or balasson@usc.edu

A press call to discuss the latest findings from the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is Tuesday, November 22 at 10 a.m. PST. Call-in spots are limited. To reserve a spot for the phone conference, RSVP to Suzanne Wu at suzanne.wu@usc.edu.

LOS ANGELES — November 20, 2011 — Californians love their public school teachers and believe they are underpaid, but hold much less favorable views of teachers unions and would dramatically change the way teacher salaries are determined, according to results from the latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll.   

A majority of California voters — 53 percent — said public school teachers in California are underpaid, but voters also decisively rejected the current standards by which teacher salaries are determined. Just 11 percent favored using seniority as the primary factor to determine teacher pay, and 13 percent favored using the education or advanced training the teacher has received as the main factor.   

While only 10 percent of voters favored using student standardized test scores alone to determine teacher pay, a majority of California voters — 53 percent — support using standardized test scores as part of the method by which teacher pay is determined, in conjunction with other measures including classroom observation and parent feedback. An even larger percentage — 69 percent — said making teachers overall performance assessments publicly available would improve the quality of California’s public schools.  

Seventy-two percent of voters agreed with the statement that testing is important, but said teachers should be evaluated on more than student scores on a single test. On average, voters said performance and progress on standardized tests should account for almost half of California public school teacher assessment.  

“Californians clearly believe that public school teachers should make more money, but they strongly reject the current system for setting teacher salaries,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. “Rather than paying teachers based on how many years they've been in the classroom, California voters want to reward teachers for what their students learn."  

Teachers and Testing: Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, and Howard Blume, reporter for the Los Angeles Times, discuss how Californians feel about teachers and standardized testing.

The divide in opinion on the importance of standardized testing is particularly stark when broken down by ethnicity. Fifty-two percent of Latino voters agreed that standardized testing has improved education by allowing parents to see student progress and by providing a more accurate measure of student learning, while 37 percent said standardized testing has hurt public education. The numbers were almost reversed among White voters. A majority of White voters — 56 percent — said standardized testing has hurt public education, and 31 percent said it has helped.  

Overall, 77 percent of voters hold a favorable view of California’s public school teachers, and 14 percent have an unfavorable view. Fifty-three percent of voters said public school teachers in California are underpaid, 31 percent said teachers are paid “just right,” and 6 percent of voters said teachers are overpaid.   

Among voters surveyed, 48 percent had a favorable view of teachers unions and 35 percent had an unfavorable view. Voters were split about the role of teachers unions in improving public schools, with 44 percent agreeing that teachers unions work to improve schools and 43 percent disagreeing. Forty-five percent of voters agreed that teachers unions help teachers succeed a very tough profession, and 40 percent disagreed.  

But by a margin of 36 percentage points, voters were much more likely to say teachers unions look out for the interests of teachers than the interests of students. Seventy-one percent of voters said teachers unions look out for the interests of teachers, compared to 35 percent that said teachers unions look out for the interests of students.   

“There’s clearly no “teacher bashing” sentiment, just a desire for some changes,” said Dominic Brewer, Clifford H. and Betty C. Allen Professor in Urban Leadership and professor of education, economics and policy at the USC Rossier School of Education. “Voters seem to be saying we agree teachers should be paid more but we also think there should be some student outcomes component in pay and there should be much greater transparency.”  

Sixty-two percent of voters said teachers unions deserve significant blame for the problems in public schools and “have too much influence over public education policy.” More than half of voters — 52 percent — said teachers unions are too powerful, including 61 percent of parents with a school-age child. Thirty-six percent of voters overall said teachers unions are not too powerful. By a margin of 51-34 percent, parents felt that teachers were resistant to reforms that would improve all schools. Among all voters, the margin was 45-37 percent.  

"Californians love public school teachers, but they're not nearly as enthusiastic about teachers unions," Schnur said. "There's a huge opportunity here for teachers to play a meaningful role in the discussions regarding school reform, but voters don't see them as motivated to make those reforms happen."  

Nine percent of those surveyed by the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll self-identified as teachers. Of these respondents, 38 percent said they belonged to a teachers union and 61 percent said they did not.  

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll was conducted Oct. 30 – Nov. 9, 2011, and surveyed 1,500 registered voters in California. The poll includes a significant oversample of Latino voters, interviewed in both Spanish and English. The margin of error for the overall sample is +/- 2.52 percentage points. For poll methodology visit http://gqrr.com/index.php?ID=2683.

FOR MEDIA: Phone conference Tuesday, November 22 at 10 a.m. PST

WHO: Panelists include:
Dan Schnur, director of USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC
Dominic Brewer, Clifford H. and Betty C. Allen Professor in Urban Leadership and professor of education, economics, and policy at the USC Rossier School of Education
Representatives from polling firms Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and American Viewpoint
HOW: Call-in spots are limited. To reserve a spot for the phone conference, RSVP to Suzanne Wu at suzanne.wu@usc.edu. Call-in numbers:

United States: (800) 230-1951               
International: +01 (612) 234-9960    

 

WEB SITE: dornsife.usc.edu/poll
TWITTER: @usclatpoll

About the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll: The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is a series of statewide public opinion polls in California, designed to survey voter attitudes on a wide range of political, policy, social and cultural issues.

Conducted at regular intervals throughout the year, the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is one of the largest polls of registered voters in the state and has been widely cited, helping to inform the public and to encourage discourse on key political and policy issues.

About USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences: USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences is the heart of the university. The largest, oldest and most diverse of USC's 19 schools, USC Dornsife is composed of more than 30 academic departments and dozens of research centers and institutes. USC Dornsife is home to approximately 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students and more than 750 faculty members with expertise across the humanities, social sciences and sciences.

About the Los Angeles Times:
The Los Angeles Times is the largest metropolitan daily newspaper in the country, with a daily readership of 2 million and 3 million on Sunday, and a combined print and interactive local weekly audience of 4.5 million. The fast-growing latimes.com draws over 10 million unique visitors monthly.