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Virginia Journal of Education

Your Classroom

Public Backs Teachers in Annual PDK Poll

Americans understand the power of the teaching profession and have an abiding respect for those who practice it, according to the 2010 annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.

In this year’s survey, respondents said that the most important national education priority should be teacher quality, and that America should recruit the best teaching prospects possible, provide them with excellent professional development, and do everything possible to retain them. Seventy-one percent of Americans say they have trust and confidence in teachers (that figure rose to 78 percent among public school parents), and two out of three would support their child’s decision to pursue a career as a public school teacher.

Support for President Barack Obama’s approach to improving education slipped in this year’s poll. Only 34 percent of respondents would give him an A or B for his support of public schools, down from 45 percent last year. Americans strongly oppose some of his reform proposals, particularly those in which teachers and principals are fired and schools closed down.

Some other findings from the 2010 Poll:

School funding viewed as inadequate. Just under half (46 percent) of respondents identified funding shortfalls as the biggest problem facing their local schools.

Education should be left to the states. Most Americans don’t see public education as a federal issue, believing instead that such decisions as setting standards, deciding curriculum, holding schools accountable and paying the bills should be left to state governments.

Teacher quality tops list. When Americans are asked how their local school could earn an A, their top three responses, by a comfortable margin, are (1) boost teacher quality, (2) use a challenging curriculum, and (3) help students be more successful.

Teachers should be learners. Two-thirds of Americans think that increasing learning time for teachers would increase student learning. Of that two-thirds, a greater percentage believe that having teachers spend more time learning new ways to teach would be better for student achievement than a longer school day.

Financial incentives OK. More than two out of three respondents say paying teachers extra to teach in struggling schools is a good idea. In addition, almost three out of four said that teacher pay should be very closely or somewhat closely tied to student achievement.

Financial incentives not OK for students. Three out of four are against paying students to do things such as read books, attend school or get better grades. Only one in four parents say they’ve paid their children as an incentive for school performance.

Thumbs-up for college. An overwhelming 92 percent of Americans think their children will go to college, which they believe will translate into better jobs and incomes. And even in today’s tough economy, three out of four parents believe they are very or somewhat likely to be able to afford a college education for their children.

Charter schools gaining support. Just over two-thirds (68 percent) of Americans have a favorable opinion of charter schools, and just under two-thirds would support a new public charter school in their communities.

Phi Delta Kappa International and Gallup have conducted this poll every year since 1969.

Working With Your Mentor

Some tips for having an effective relationship with your mentor teacher:
• Schedule a regular meeting time free of distractions.
• Have your mentor read your lesson plans and offer feedback.
• Observe your mentor and have him or her observe you.
• Work with your mentor to develop your classroom management plan.
• Keep a journal of dates and topics discussed with your mentor.
• Be open to what your mentor has to say.

ADHD Resources Online

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has created a new online resource center to help children and adults living with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD, characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, is estimated to affect 9 percent of children ages 3-17 and is the most commonly diagnosed behavior disorder in children.

At the ADHD Resource Center, you’ll find information about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options; tips on managing the condition at school; personal stories of people living with ADHD; and updates on current research.

To access the new center, visit the NAMI website at


Why Dropouts Are Everyone’s Business

Dropping out of high school is harmful not only to the individual whose education is cut short, but to our society, as well. There are high costs, both financially and emotionally, for dropping out and, therefore, promising benefits from successful dropout prevention programs. Here are some ways dropping out hurts:

Dropouts hurt the nation’s competitive edge. Dropouts mean fewer well-qualified graduates to fill the jobs of the global economy.
Dropouts are prevalent in some rapidly growing racial/ethnic groups. Dropout rates have traditionally been high among some groups, such as Hispanics, whose percentage of the population is expanding.
Dropouts earn less and contribute fewer tax dollars to the economy.  Lifetime earnings for a high school graduate average hundreds of thousands of dollars more than those of a dropout.
Dropouts have increased health costs. Compared to high school graduates, dropouts are more likely to suffer from illness or disability and to die prematurely from heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Dropouts drive up criminal justice costs. Close to half of all inmates in state and federal prisons have less than a high school education.
Dropouts draw heavily on welfare. High school dropouts are more likely than high school graduates to be on some form of public assistance.
Dropouts are less likely to vote or engage in civic activities.  Americans with the least education are the least likely to be involved in civic participation, such as voting, volunteering and community involvement.

Source: National Education Association



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