Public Perception of Education and Teachers

Public Perception

Teachers have a difficult but rewarding job. Sometimes, they feel underappreciated for the service they provide to students and families across this country. Public education continues to take hits in the media. The public perception of education and teachers often seems negative. Sometimes, it feels like the ills of society are somehow the fault of teachers. Our education system bears too much responsibility. Consequently, educators feel the burden of trying to raise test scores, maneuvering ever changing policies, inconsistent leadership and more. It leaves teachers to wonder how does the public perception affect their jobs and morale.

We, the public are bombarded with information about school funding, standardized testing, and comparing our educational system to those in other countries. Recently, we listened to politicians debate whether the Secretary of Education is qualified to serve in the position. Also, we heard about the possibility of major decreases in funding for schools. Overall, it’s hard to see positives when all the news appears to be negative. However, the public perception of education and teachers is not as bad as it seems. 

Three out of four Americans have trust and confidence in public school teachers.

The Gallup Poll

Gallup conducts a survey each year and has historical data since the 1990’s. It is a very comprehensive survey and yields some interesting data around the public’s perception of public education. While the Gallup survey does not sugar coat the good or bad perceptions, it is eye opening to where improvements can be made.  Let’s take a look at some of the data.

Surveyors asked participants about their perception of the quality of public education. In the 2016 survey, 11% percent were very satisfied, 27% somewhat satisfied, 27% somewhat dissatisfied, 34% very dissatisfied and 2% had no opinion. However, what these numbers do not tell us is why the participants were satisfied or dissatisfied with public education. As educators, here’s a perfect place to dig deeper and perhaps work to change this perception. 

More Statistics

Next, another is a question around what types of school provide the best option and quality education. The participants perceived independent or private schools as the best options. The second best option is parochial or church related schools. Following were charter schools, home schools and then public schools. Remember, the public does not hear much about private schools, parochial or home schools in the news. So, the information to form a perception is more limited unless through marketing, personal experience or word of mouth.

The Gallup survey provides some more interesting information about the public perception of educators and teachers. Fifty-two percent of participants favor including student performance in teacher evaluations. Also, three out of four persons believe entrance requirements into teacher preparation programs should be more rigorous. Two out of three participants believe increasing the rigor of college teacher preparation programs would produce more effective teachers. 

Public perception of public schools varies across the country.

Positives and Negatives

So much data and information are provided in the survey that this post could go on and on. However, people had positive perceptions about teachers. Three out of four people say they have trust and confidence in the teachers who teach in public schools. Also, 40% describe the teacher who had the most influence in their lives with words such as caring, motivating, compassionate and inspiring. Three out of four people know a public school teacher. Check out this video about media perceptions of teachers. Lastly, most people give their community or neighborhood school a grade of either an A or B.

Public perception of education and teachers consist of positives and negatives. If we dig deeper, the information provides opportunities to make improvements. What we learn from the data is important. Then we can move to showing the public the important role public schools and teachers play in society. Furthermore, it’s time for educators to create and move the dialog around education to a more positive discussion.


Gallup Poll 2016

Typecasting Teachers: How Media Portrayals Mirror Public Perception

Public Perception of Teachers

Shaping Perception of Public Schools  

Americans Like Their Schools Just Fine – But Not Yours

It Started With No Child Left Behind by Diane Ravitch




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