New USC Poll: Public Approval for Testing and Evaluations

Parent ViewS TESTINGNearly two-thirds of California voters said students should be tested in every grade to ensure that they are progressing, a new PACE/USC Rossier Poll shows. The strong majority contradicts calls in Sacramento to reduce standardized testing. The poll found that only 22 percent of voters said California should cut back on testing.

“Most of the political experts say that parents think their children are tested too frequently, but our poll shows just the opposite,” poll director Dan Schnur said in a press release. “Large majorities of California parents, and even larger majorities of state voters, want to see students tested regularly and in a wide range of subjects.”

The poll also had important messages for teachers as voters said student performance on standardized tests should play a sizable role in evaluating a teacher’s effectiveness.

More than 80 percent of respondents believe at least some component of teacher evaluation should be based on student standardized test scores.

And when asked what would have the most positive impact on public schools, the top answer was “removing bad teachers from the classroom” (43 percent), followed by “more involvement from parents” (33 percent), and “more money for school districts and schools” (25 percent).

“In California, state law and local rules make it challenging for districts to reward their best teachers and remove their worst teachers,” said Dominic Brewer, a professor of urban policy the USC Rossier School. “Voters, however, clearly think both strategies would help improve schools. “

“There’s a basic ‘pro-teacher’ sentiment, that teachers should largely be in the driver’s seat and should get the tools, money and extra training they need,” Brewer said. “But there is a tough love message from voters: they value and trust teachers and want them to have more resources, but they also want real accountability for student outcomes.”

While teacher unions like UTLA have resisted efforts to tie teacher evaluation to classroom performance, 43 percent of voters said teachers should be judged equally on their students’ standardized test results, assessments of their classroom performance and evaluations by peers. Three in 10 said evaluations should include some student test results but should be weighted mostly toward classroom assessments and peer evaluations.

Only 10 percent of Californians said student performance on standardized tests should not be used to evaluate teachers, and 8 percent said teachers should be evaluated mostly on test results, with some assessment of their classroom performance and peer evaluations.

Californians are strongly supportive of teachers and want to give them additional tools to succeed but also want teachers held to higher standards.

More than half, 52 percent, of voters agreed that paying teachers more for exceeding performance standards would improve the quality of the state’s public schools, as opposed to 21 percent who said it would make things worse.

A plurality of voters, 42 percent, said they would choose to provide additional support and training to struggling teachers over making it easier to fire teachers who “repeatedly fail to perform at acceptable levels” (29 percent).

But most voters (48 percent) said teachers are largely to blame if a school fails, followed by parents (28 percent) and local school boards (25 percent).

Voters overwhelmingly agreed that power and responsibility for school performance should rest in the hands of local school boards and teachers, not at the state level.

Nearly half of voters, 49 percent, said the main responsibility for ensuring student success should rest with local educators; 28 percent said local school districts; and 23 percent said the state legislature.

But 63 percent of voters said they were “not aware” of Gov. Jerry Brown’s new Local Control Funding Formula that gives school districts more control over how they spend money and allocates more money to needy districts.

Most voters also didn’t know much about California’s implementation of the Common Core State Standards, as 71 percent of voters said they knew little or nothing about it.

Among the poll’s other findings:

  • When asked about testing high school students, 55 percent of voters said California should test students in all subjects, as opposed to 34 percent who said the state should test students in math and English but let teachers evaluate their students in other subjects.
  • When asked who should be most responsible for deciding whether a school is succeeding or failing, 40 percent of voters said local school boards should decide, 20 percent said parents, and 14 percent said the state government. Only 4 percent thought that the federal government should have this responsibility.
  • While four times as many more voters believe Proposition 30 – a temporary sales tax and income tax increase to fund education – has helped public schools (20 percent) than hurt public schools (5 percent), more than half of voters (54 percent) said the measure has had no effect on public schools and 22 percent said they didn’t know if it has had an impact.
  • There are at least some signs that voters are becoming slightly more optimistic about public education. When asked about the state’s public schools, 13 percent of voters said they were “getting better,” compared with 7 percent who agreed in last year’s PACE/USC Rossier Poll. Forty-nine percent said state schools had “gotten worse,” as compared to 57 percent in 2012.

The PACE/USC Rossier Poll was conducted Aug. 27 to 30, 2013 by polling firms MFour Research and Tulchin Research and surveyed 1,001 registered California voters. The poll was conducted online and allowed respondents to complete the survey on a desktop or laptop computer, tablet or smartphone. The poll was conducted in English and Spanish. The margin of error for the overall sample was +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Parent ViewS TESTING



  • Stephen Krashen

    According to the USC poll, 66% approve of annual standardized testing and 54% approve of testing all subjects. I wonder how respondents would react if they knew that there are plans to increase testing far beyond any rational person’s imagination. The common core plans to test every year, test all subjects, and will also add “interim tests” to be given during the year, and there are plans to extend testing to all grades, K-12. There is also talk of pretesting in the fall. This is more standardized testing than has ever been seen on this planet.
    I wonder how respondents would react if they knew that there is no evidence that this increase in testing will help, and a substantial amount of evidence showing that it will not?
    I wonder how respondents would react if they knew that the testing will cost billions: It will be done online, which means huge expenditures and constant upgrading and replacement of equipment, a boondoggle for the testing and computer industries. This at a time when education budgets strained, and essential services are not provided.
    I have documented this astonishing increase in testing from documents available at the US Department of Education. Please see: “How much testing?” available at two places:

  • Stephen Krashen

    As was the case in many other polls, respondents rated their local schools more highly than schools in general, in this case schools in California: 33.5% of Parents of children in school gave their local schools an A or B, but only 8.6% gave California schools an A or B. (Items 12 and 13)
    An obvious explanation: Parents know a lot about the school their child attends, but their opinion of American education comes from the media. For decades, the media has been presenting a biased view.
    In a column accompanying the 2009 Gallup poll on education, which produced nearly identical results, Gerald Bracey stated it this way: “Americans never hear anything positive about the nation’s schools … negative information flows almost daily from media, politicians, and ideologues.”

    In reality, American schools are doing quite well: When researchers control for poverty, American students’ international test scores rank near the top of the world.

    I wonder how many of the respondents knew this?

  • Barbara Stam

    Do you remember how many people approved of war with Iraq and thought Iraq had something to do with the September 11 attacks?

    Exactly, so why should a poll of people who don’t fully understand the issues carry weight in school policy? Do I get to vote on evaluation policy for fire or police? After all, Fire Station 74 is right near my house. Doesn’t that make me an expert? No I don’t get to make those decisions, and that is because I know little about those fields so why in the world would I think I know how to evaluate a firefighter?

    And in terms of “removing bad teachers” from the classroom we don’t need to because 50% leave on their own within five years due to the stressful nature of the profession. “Bad teachers” is just another false assumption on the part of the public after movies and politicians demonizing public school teachers have bombarded the airwaves.

    The job of the district and district administrators is to make the job of teaching easier. Period. The district needs to serve the needs of teachers so we can serve our students. That’s a concept I bet you haven’t considered now have you?

    I know that most of the students I teach who have been constantly tested have little background knowledge of the world, couldn’t tell you who the Vice -President is and are desperate for work experience and knowledge about professions which the district is not providing. I tried to sign my students up for community- based ROP classes only to discover there were……. wait for it…….0 classes in South LA but an abundance of classes in the Valley. Conspiracy? I don’t know but how can it even be legal to not serve South LA students with Saturday and evening ROP classes? Anyone, anyone, Buelller, Bueller……..

    To top it off they failed to include the registration forms for the classes so I had to call to get those and they arrived two days after the classes started and I was informed oops- all the classes are full! Your South LA students who we pretend to care about will have to wait until Spring. Except these are seniors will be done by then. Thanks for nothing.

    I also know that my colleagues in Irvine and Corona del Mar have consistently high standardized test scores and quite a few started in LAUSD. They told me and other colleagues quite honestly at an Advanced Placement conference a few years back that they could never return and teach in LAUSD.

    They admitted how much easier it was to have 0 classroom management issues and kids beating down the doors to take their AP classes instead of looking for excuses to get out. But I don’t blame students suddenly hit with a dose of reality in LAUSD- they haven’t been properly prepared with vertical teaming of their teachers or long term strategies because that isn’t the district’s goal- their goal is upheaval and chaos in poverty-stricken areas of the district so I couldn’t vertically team with the middle school teachers because they were constantly changing. Reconstitutions, restructurings, school giveaways etc etc etc You know, in areas where people can’t fight back or when they do, no one pays them any attention even as their tax dollars fund the salaries of the bureaucrats making the decisions to destroy their schools.

    Our primary goal should be to dramatically expand background knowledge for our students and balance the insane A-G requirements with mandatory geography, driver’s ed, work experience and a “study abroad” type program.

    This doesn’t have to mean out of the country but simply out of state or even to the Eastern Sierras or Washington DC. Instead of spending money on IPADS we need to provide our students with real experiences just like middle and upper class kid get. Shouldn’t all of our students get parity with the upper class in terms of education? Upper class kids are not constantly tested.
    One of my former LAUSD colleagues from a comprehensive high school now teaches at the Wildwood School in Los Angeles.

    Take a look- see at the website:

    Instead of worrying about “evaluating teachers” the district could actually find out what teachers need for their students and spend the millions on what teachers know students need to compete with the more privileged social classes. But then that would put our students on par with the middle and upper classes and we can’t have that. We have to just keep talking about “testing” and “evaluation” and “bad teachers” to keep teachers scared and the public clueless about what is really going on in education which is that our students generally get a McDonald’s education while those in Irvine and Calabasas get the Lexus treatment. And don’t pretend all of you reformy people that you want these kids to have a real education. Because if you did, AGT and VAM is NOT what you would be proposing. It’s not what your own kids get now is it?

  • Jack London


    This poll is pretty damning and serves as a powerful rejection of all those who claim that standardized testing is not the most essential component to whether a school/teacher should be judged on their results.

    This should give LAUSD more ammunition to continue in their aggressive testing directives and hold teachers accountable for the test scores of their students.

    This poll tells us that if a school is deemed failing, 48% believe that it is the teachers’ fault. It is incredible and shocking how many teachers there are to blame for all the failing schools in California, let alone Los Angeles. If a school is deemed a “failure”, it is teachers fault, not poverty or environment the kids come from.

    It’s wonderful that USC/Rossier set up the polls so that they surveyed 1,001 registered California voters. The poll was conducted online and allowed respondents to complete the survey on a desktop or laptop computer, tablet or smartphone.

    And who were the people they surveyed?

    60% White
    24% Latino
    6% Black
    8% Asia/Pacific Islander

    How much does their family make a year?

    45% over $75,000 – $500,000
    10% under $30,000

    How many have a college degree or more?


    Oh…and 26% surveyed on the state of public education in California are retired.
    And yes, a full 27% live in LA.

    No data on how many in the survey actually have kids in LAUSD.

    These figures, statistics and demographics are obviously far from representative of the population that LAUSD services, but LA School Report just puts out this poll and figures in a complete vacuum as if to say, “Tah Dah! There’s your proof!’ Again, is LA School Report just a one-way conduit of information passed on by Pro-Reform interests or does anyone actually do investigative reporting at this site?

    You can look for yourself at the poll and its questions. I wonder how many LAUSD parents actually slogged through this on-line survey:

    Did anyone at LA School Report look at it and analyze it? Or is it just not worth commenting on?