Survey Finds Majority of Americans Support Firing Bad Teachers

A new survey shows that 86% of Americans support greater accountability in public schools as a majority of people support firing poorly performing teachers, according to a survey by the Center for Education Reform (CER).

The survey also reveals that 37% of people surveyed said public schools can fire poorly performing teachers and 54% said they could not. The poll of 1,000 people was conducted in September and October, writes Mary C. Tillotson of

According to survey, many people said their state legislators have the most say in education, while 69% said legislators are doing a fair or poor job. Around 46% of parents surveyed said they wanted more power in decisions about their children's education.

More than half of parents said they would transfer their child to a different school if the current school didn't meet annual testing standards or if the child wasn't being challenged.

Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council for Teacher Quality, said that evaluations can help connect teachers with appropriate professional support.

"(Evaluations) can help us make all sorts of better decisions about how we assign teachers, how we target professional development so teachers are getting support, whether it's a teacher who might be struggling who really needs intensive support, or a really good teacher who with some support could be a really great teacher," she said.

"High-stakes testing" evaluations are often decried as unfair to teachers — students can have "bad days" on test days, or may be well-educated but have poor test-taking abilities — but "I don't think anybody thinks that is fair. All the systems being developed are built on multiple measures," she said.

According to Jacobs, classroom observations are another measure that note whether the teacher asks critical-thinking questions and varies which students are called on. She said that multiple people, including administrators and highly effective teachers, would observe a teacher to mitigate the effects of an administrator's personal feelings.

CER President Kara Kerwin said that both schools and teachers need to be held accountable. She said parental satisfaction and financial health factors should be included in rating school quality.

In private and parochial schools, school administration can easily fire people for poor performance. But it is not easy in public schools, according to Kerwin. All schools should be able to fire poorly performing teachers, she added.

"It's difficult because of current tenure laws, and the structure of collective bargaining and organized labor, in a profession that should be treated as professional, and not labor," Kerwin said.

Kerwin said accountability is built into a system where parents choose schools. If schools are underperforming and parents are not satisfied with a school's performance, parents would opt out their kids and underperforming school will close down.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1%.

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