A college education isn’t what it once was in the eyes of American adults, according to an annual survey conducted by Gallup in conjunction with Phi Delta Kappa, an American professional organization.
Only 43 percent of American adults said that having a college education is “very important” in life, while 48 percent say it is “fairly important” and 9 percent say it’s “not too important.” In comparison, just four years ago, a whopping 75 percent of adults said a college education was “very important.”
Long seen as a gateway to the middle class and a better life, American college enrollment had risen steadily for centuries before it began to decline in the past two years. While an aging population is one culprit, others point to rapidly rising student loan costs and the reduced premium received by college graduates.
The survey, which looks at a wide variety of educational trends, also found that U.S. adults strongly believe in the need for a more highly-qualified teaching force. However, their enthusiasm for creating such a teaching force through standardized testing is flagging rapidly, even though tying teacher compensation to test scores is a popular education reform proposal. Only 38 percent of adults believe teachers should be evaluated based on the test scores of their students, and that number drops to 31 percent for parents with children in school.
That number is a significant decline from past years of the survey. As recently as 2012, 52 percent of adults believed that standardized tests should be used to evaluate teachers.
Instead, Americans look more favorably upon measures they believe would increase quality at the point of entry into teaching. Sixty percent have a general belief that becoming a teacher should be more difficult, and 80 percent think teachers should have to pass a board certification similar to the tests administered to doctors and lawyers. They also think teachers should be prepared through an extensive training period. Seventy-one percent of adults think novice teachers should spend at least a year practicing under a senior teachers; 27 percent think they should spend at least two years doing so.
One issue on which Americans are more sharply divided is the matter of educating illegal immigrants. When asked if the children of illegal immigrants should receive free public education, 49 percent say yes, while 50 percent say no. When the question was slightly reworded to remove the word “free” and refer to illegal immigrants as “undocumented” instead, support for educating them rose slightly, to 56 percent.
The survey was conducted from May 29 t0 June 20, and has a sample size of 1,001 adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.
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