Saturday, April 11, 2015

Teacher tenure, Seniority layoffs: NEW USC DORNSIFE COLLEGE OF LETTERS, ARTS AND SCIENCES/LOS ANGELES TIMES POLL :: Findings, 2 articles +smf’s 2¢

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research |


April 10, 2015  ::  On behalf of the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, in conjunction with American Viewpoint, conducted a new survey among 1,504 registered California voters. The latest survey shows:


  • Calif. voters reject tenure, seniority-based layoffs of public school teachers.
  • California voters take a dim view of teacher tenure.


USC Dornsife/LA Times FQ
USC Dornsife/LA Times Crosstabs


Following you can find articles and stories on findings of this poll:

April 11

Calif. voters reject tenure, seniority-based layoffs of public school teachers

but voters trust teachers more than any other group to improve California schools

USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Press Release |

Contact: Merrill Balassone at or (213) 740-6156 or Tanya Abrams at or (213) 740-6973  |  A press call discussing these results is MONDAY, April 13 at 10 a.m. PT. Call-in spots are limited. Call-in number: (800) 230-1059; International: (612) 234-9959. A USC event on the legal and policy implications of Vergara is Sunday. Details/RSVP:

Los Angeles – April 11, 2015 –  Nearly a year after a landmark court case invalidated California’s tenure system for public school K-12 teachers, more than one-third of voters say they believe these teachers should not be granted tenure at all, according to the results of the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll. But data also show voters most trust teachers to improve the state’s public schools, consider them underpaid and back measures to support and improve their performance in the classroom.

When asked if and after how long public school teachers should be given tenure, 38 percent said they shouldn’t be given tenure – which comes with strong job security and makes it more difficult to fire poor-performing teachers. Another 35 percent said tenure should not be granted until a teacher has been on the job for at least 4 to 10 years, the poll showed.

“Californians want their children’s teachers to succeed and want to give them every tool possible to succeed, but they are also willing to take stronger steps to remove ineffective teachers in the classroom, said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and executive director of the Unruh Institute of Politics of USC. “At a certain point if teachers don’t succeed, voters want to replace them with people who will.”

When asked to choose from a list of reforms which they believe would improve the quality of public schools, the highest percentage of voters – 82 percent – chose providing teachers with a 1-year apprenticeship with a high-performing experienced teacher before they are given their own classroom. Seventy-three percent of voters said making it easier to fire underperforming teachers would improve the quality of public schools; 71 percent said putting more money into public schools in economically disadvantaged areas; 64 percent said tying teachers’ salaries to performance evaluations; and 52 percent said extending the tax increase that provides additional funding to public schools and other programs.

Voters also named teachers as the group they most trust to improve the state’s public schools. Half of voters said they most trusted teachers at schools in their community to improve public schools, followed by 48 percent who named parents of public school students. Twenty-two percent of voters said they most trusted teachers’ unions to improve public schools, followed by 17 percent who named school administrators and superintendents.

"Clearly when it comes to education, all politics is local. California voters trust teachers and parents far more than the teachers union, school administrators, or statewide officials," said Matt Rodriguez, a distinguished Unruh Institute fellow and Democratic strategist.

Voters also rejected the notion that teachers should be laid off based on seniority, a practice that was also struck down as unconstitutional in last June’s Vergara v. California ruling. When asked how California schools should lay off teachers when necessary, 53 percent of voters said layoffs should first target teachers who receive poor marks in classroom observations, and 26 percent said teachers whose students did not make enough progress on standardized tests throughout the year should be laid off first. Just 8 percent of California voters said layoffs should first target the teacher with the least seniority or classroom experience, the poll showed.

“Seniority is clearly the least important factor in teacher performance. Voters across all demographic groups reject the  ‘last in, first out’ policy by overwhelming margins," said David Kanevsky, vice president of Republican polling firm American Viewpoint, part of the part of the bipartisan team with Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research that conducted the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll.

When asked whether administrators should take into account teacher performance or years of teaching experience when making layoff decisions, 82 percent of voters said administrators should take performance more into account, as compared to 11 percent who said seniority should be taken more into account.

“The average voter may not know the name of the Vergara case, but they tend to approve of its basic tenets of accountability. At the same time, voters hardly fault most teachers; they see teachers as part of the solution, not the problem,” said Drew Lieberman, vice president of Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

Latino voters were more likely than white voters to support teacher apprenticeships (86%), putting money into economically disadvantaged public schools (82%), extending tax increases to provide additional public school funding (62%), and making teacher pay based on their performance evaluations (69%).

"While there remains broad based support for funding for public schools, socio-economic and racial divides exist on how to improve schools with Latinos showing greater support for enhanced funding in disadvantaged areas, teacher pay based on evaluations and student achievement,” said Michael Madrid, a distinguished Unruh Institute fellow, Republican strategist and nationally recognized expert on Latino voting trends. “This split shows the different approach between Latinos and whites on how to improve the education their children are receiving.”

A strong majority of voters also believe teachers are underpaid for their work. Fifty-six percent of voters said California public schools teachers are underpaid, 27 percent said teachers were paid “just about right” and 5 percent said teachers were paid too much.

When asked what should determine teacher pay, 86 percent of voters said a teacher’s education and training should be either the most important or an important factor, followed by 77 percent of voters who said their students’ achievement and progress on a range of measures including standardized tests, classroom observations and parent feedback; 77 percent said whether the teacher is at a low-performing school where students need the most help; 64 percent who said students’ achievement and progress on standardized tests; and 57 percent who said seniority in the number of years of classroom teaching experience.

Latino voters were more likely to support tying teacher pay to student achievement (85%) as compared to white voters (74%).

The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, the largest statewide survey of registered voters, was conducted March 28-April 7 and includes a significant oversample of Latino voters as well as one of the most robust cell phone samples in the state. The full sample of 1,504 registered voters has a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points.

Additional poll results and methodology are available here


TWITTER: @usclatpoll

About the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll: The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is a series of statewide public opinion polls in California, designed to survey voter attitudes on a wide range of political, policy, social and cultural issues.

Conducted at regular intervals throughout the year, the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is one of the largest polls of registered voters in the state and has been widely cited, helping to inform the public and to encourage discourse on key political and policy issues.

About USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences: USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences is the heart of the university. The largest, oldest and most diverse of USC’s 19 schools, USC Dornsife is composed of more than 30 academic departments and dozens of research centers and institutes. USC Dornsife is home to approximately 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students and more than 750 faculty members with expertise across the humanities, social sciences and sciences.

About the Los Angeles Times: The Los Angeles Times is the largest metropolitan daily newspaper in the country, with a daily readership of 2 million and 3 million on Sunday, and a combined print and interactive local weekly audience of 4.5 million. The fast-growing draws over 10 million unique visitors monthly.

Poll: California voters take a dim view of teacher tenure

By Howard Blume  | Los Angeles Times |

4/11/2015  ::  Gisela Aviles is a 49-year-old real estate agent in Corona. Henry Yoshikawa is a 71-year-old former administrator for a tiny school district in Placer County. And Arianna Rivera is a 23-year-old bank teller in East Los Angeles.

Although strikingly different, they are among an overwhelming majority of California voters who shared remarkably similar views about teachers in a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. They agree that teachers receive tenure much too quickly. And they believe that performance should matter more than seniority when teachers are laid off.

They also favor making it easier to fire instructors — although, at the same time, they think highly of teachers and want more resources for public schools that serve disadvantaged children.

Voters' views on teachers

Voters' views on teachers

"There is a very important lesson here for California politicians," said Dan Schnur, director of USC's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. The poll findings indicate that voters "want to help teachers and support them ... but they're also more than willing to take stronger steps to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom."

Issues affecting teachers' job protections are at the center of a national debate over how best to improve schools.

On one side are foundations, business interests and the Obama administration, which have said students will benefit if teachers are held more accountable. To them, that includes making it easier to fire teachers who fail to deliver results, such as improvement on student standardized tests.

Teachers unions and other critics counter that targeting instructors weakens labor's ability to counteract proposals they believe are undermining public education. They want more focus on other factors that affect students, such as poverty, school resources and class sizes.

In California, nearly half of voters surveyed in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times poll favored a longer period to earn tenure than the two years granted under state law. Among those who favored some form of tenure, the largest group wanted teachers to earn it after seven to 10 years. More than a third opposed any form of tenure.

Voters also placed little faith in the seniority system that governs most layoffs in tough economic times. When given a list of options, only 8% said seniority should be the primary factor driving which teachers are let go.

More than half, 53%, instead said that teachers who have low marks when they are observed in their classrooms should be the first dismissed. And 26%, the next largest group, said that layoffs should first affect teachers whose students aren't progressing on standardized tests.

Their students have to be improving, so I believe that if you're doing a good job and your students are improving on the test scores, then by all means you deserve a raise. - Gisela Aviles is a real estate agent in Corona

Seniority — the main yardstick currently used to determine which teachers to dismiss during budget crises — fell far back in the poll, followed by teachers who have less advanced training than others.

Although these opinions don't coincide with state law, they line up with advocates who sued the state in last year's landmark litigation, Vergara vs. California. In that case, an L.A. County Superior Court judge threw out tenure, seniority and other traditional job protections. That ruling is on appeal.

Rivera came by her views about teachers through experience as a student in both traditional and independently operated, public charter schools. At the charters, which don't have to follow seniority and tenure rules, she remembers young, enthusiastic, hardworking teachers.

By contrast, at the traditional schools, "there were older teachers with tenure who don't care. They were not there mentally and emotionally," said Rivera, who is registered with the Peace and Freedom Party and describes her politics as liberal.

If tenure were earned after 10 to 15 years, schools would have time to weed out the less dedicated, she said. Overall, she said, performance should matter when layoffs must occur.

Pollsters found such opinions widespread in a telephone survey of 1,504 voters from March 28 through April 7.

The "last in, first out" system for handling layoffs is "rejected by overwhelming margins regardless of what group you are," said Dave Kanevsky of American Viewpoint, the Republican half of the bipartisan team that conducted the poll.

"The average voter may not know the name Vergara, but they tend to affirm the basic tenet of accountability," said Drew Lieberman of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, the Democratic half of the polling team. Voters "realize that not all teachers are created equal and that separating the good from the bad is part of the calculus."

Public school teachers without tenure currently can be fired at the will of their school district. Tenured teachers can be removed immediately for gross misconduct or pending an investigation of serious allegations. But dismissing an instructor for ineffective teaching typically is lengthy and expensive.

In the poll, nearly three-quarters of voters said it was very or somewhat important to make it easier to fire underperforming teachers.

Unions have fought hard for tenure rights, characterizing them as due process to prevent unfair or arbitrary dismissals.

Yoshikawa, a registered Republican, said he helped establish the teachers union in the district where he worked, yet he opposes all forms of tenure. Having teachers work on an annual contract would result in a higher-quality teacher corps, he said.

For Aviles, who declined to state a party affiliation, accountability for teachers also should include pay raises based on merit.

"Their students have to be improving, so I believe that if you're doing a good job and your students are improving on the test scores, then by all means you deserve a raise," she said.

In the survey, 77% of voters said it was important to base teacher pay on a range of measures, including student achievement, classroom observation and parent feedback; 64% said student progress on tests and achievement should be important factors.

At the same time, pollsters and other analysts say, there appears to be a strong affinity for teachers.

More than half of those surveyed, including Aviles, felt teachers were underpaid. They also want more resources invested in traditional public schools.

"Californians want their children's teachers to succeed and want to give them every tool possible," said Schnur of USC. "But there is a limit on their patience."

California voters place more faith in teachers than anyone else when it comes to doing what's best for students, according to the poll.

Half of those surveyed put teachers first or second when given a list of groups they most trust to improve schools. Parents finished next.

Teachers unions finished well behind, but still ahead of school district administrators, Gov. Jerry Brown and "philanthropists who seek to change the traditional education system."

This dynamic played out in the recent race for state superintendent of public instruction between incumbent Tom Torlakson, backed by unions, and Marshall Tuck, who championed the court ruling that weakened job protections and who received key support from wealthy donors.

In that tightly contested race, the unions were able to associate Tuck with wealthy contributors and to link Torlakson, by contrast, with teachers, said Michael Madrid, a fellow at the Unruh Institute.

Policies endorsed by teachers unions often have prevailed at the ballot and in the Legislature. The last ballot attempt to extend the time needed to earn tenure was put forward in 2005 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Voters, siding with teachers unions, defeated it.

The margin of error in the poll is plus or minus 2.7 percentage points, higher for subgroups.



USC LA Times Sat Topline Questionnaire


041115 USC LA Times Sat Crosstabs


Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, in conjunction with American Viewpoint, conducted this survey on behalf of the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times. These findings are based on a random sample survey of 1,504 (1,504 weighted) registered voters in the state of California, conducted from March 28 – April 7, 2015. Interviews were conducted by telephone using live interviewers from Interviewing Services of America. Voters were randomly selected from a list of registered voters statewide and reached on a landline or cell phone depending on the number they designated on their voter registration. Fifty-five percent of this sample was reached on a cell phone. Up to five attempts were made to reach and interview each randomly selected voter.
The study includes an oversample of 400 known-Latino registered voters, with the total number of Latino voters interviewed at 498 (361 weighted). All interviews among known Latinos were carried out via telephone by bilingual Latino interviewers, and conducted in the preferred language of the survey respondent, English or Spanish. Overall, 33 percent of interviews among the known Latino sample were conducted in Spanish and 67 percent in English. The technique of using fully bilingual interviewers yields higher response and cooperation rates and is greatly preferred because it does not terminate calls with Spanish-language households and require a callback. This survey also included a small oversample of African American respondents (118 unweighted; 90 weighted).

Upon completion of all interviewing, the results were weighted to bring the Latino oversample population into line with the racial and ethnic composition of registered voters in California. The data were weighted to reflect the total population of registered voters throughout the state, balancing on regional and demographic characteristics for gender, age, race, and party registration according to known census estimates and voter file projections from several distinct voter files.

The maximum sampling error for the overall sample of 1,504 registered voters is +/- 2.7 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. The margin of error for subgroups is higher. The margin of error for Latinos is +/- 4.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.


smf 2cents OK: I haven’t drilled down into the detail of this poll as deeply as I will have in a day or two – but what becomes instantly apparent is that – while the actual telephone canvassers try to be as neutral as possible in their survey, the evaluators and analysts: Not so much. The first are paid by the hour, the second are compensated for results by the folks who commissioned the poll. What I am saying is that it is generally human nature (we are hunter/gatherers after all!) to find what you are looking for.  And I found something else.

The sub-headline in the poll press release: “but voters trust teachers more than any other group to improve California schools” screams off the page at me ….which I suppose makes me more trusting of PR hacks than ivory-tower researchers.

It is kind of interesting that Black and Republican respondents favor parent opinion over teachers’ – I’m a parent leader  and I’d like to find out which parents I’m to trust before I’d trust them!

If you dive into the poll (which is only of registered voters – God must love non-registered non-voters because (S)He made so many of them!)  you will find a lot of  information that is valuable – but the most important is that the folks polled have diminishing respect for reform initiatives initiated by

   4. Teacher’s Unions,

   3. School District Administrators (I suppose this means Superintendents and their ilk, not school-site administrators like Principals) 

   2. Jerry Brown and

   1. Philanthropists.

I am not surprised and generally  agree with that order and ranking (Finding what I’m looking for!) – but I wonder why big city mayors, Sacramento legislators, the Secretary of Education and the editorial boards of major metropolitan newspapers weren’t invited into that dodge ball game?

Classroom teachers are members of teacher’s unions – but they are not monolithically The Teachers Union. The level of participation by rank-and-file teachers in union activity is low – teacher turnouts in union elections (unless it’s a strike vote or a contract ratification)  is somewhere between abysmal and single-digit  LA City elections.

Finally: The LA Times can’t help it that they are intrinsically+institutionally  anti-labor: The McNamara Brothers – noted union organizers – blew their building up back on Oct. 1, 1910. In the Editorial Boardroom that seems like just yesterday.

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