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Surveying The Teacher Opinion Landscape


Matt, A very thoughtful blog post, as always. You put such care into these things! Overall, fair point. I do have a question. Your critique "The respondents may therefore be different from the typical U.S. teacher"....does this also apply to teachers unions, and those who choose to vote in those elections (analogous to those who choose to respond to a survey)? I.e., would you suggest the president of a state union typically issue a disclaimer along the lines of "Only 15% of our members voted in the last election, so my views as president may be different from the typical teacher?"

MG, Yes, it's quite possible, if not likely, that teachers who vote in union elections are different from the typical teacher in their particular bargaining unit (I've never really looked to see if anyone has done a systematic analysis). Similarly, the average voter in U.S. presidential and midterm elections is different from the average eligible voter. I don't have an opinion on whether or not union presidents - or any elected officials - should issue the same type of disclaimer as a non-random survey. Strikes me as a very different context. MD

I'm glad you wrote about this Matt, because this paper rubbed me the wrong way, but I couldn't quite articulate why. The "cohort" vs. "age/experience" idea makes the point well: there's a difference between a generation gap and a generational gap. The only thing I'd add is that the folks who designed the survey only cared (as far as I can tell) to break down their respondents' characteristics by experience. Naturally, any difference (or similarity) between the two groups will be highlighted, because the teachers haven't been broken down into other groupings. But what if the differences there were greater? For example, what if we broke down teachers by work assignment? By school population demographics? What if less-experinced teachers are more prone to be assigned out of their field of expertise/choice and in schools with larger populations of minority and/or low-SES students? Couldn't that affect the responses? It's clear no one cared to explore that here. The fact that the only difference Teach Plus cared about was "vets" vs. "newbies" speaks volumes.

JJ, Correct - as noted in the second footnote, it's by experience only. It's true, as you point out, that the "experience effect" might be confounded by other factors, such as school type. But I'm not sure there were ulterior motives here. For example, Teach Plus may have simply wanted to focus on the experience aspect because of the significant change in the distribution over recent years. That said, it would have been very helpful for them to provide a full set of results, including breakdowns by other characteristics. Thanks, MD


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