A few days go, Professor Ira Shor posted a comment and asked if Mercedes Schneider would analyze the poll showing that 75% of AFT teachers support the Common Core standards. Mercedes Schneider saw his request in the comments section and posted her analysis. Schneider is a high school teacher in Louisiana with a doctorate in statistics and research methods.
Hart Research Associates, which conducted the poll, did not agree with Schneider. The Hart firm is a highly respected polling organization. I invited them to respond to Scneider’s review of their work, and they agreed to do so.
Their response begins here:
TO: American Federation of Teachers
FROM: Guy Molyneux, Hart Research Associates DATE: May 10, 2013
RE: Methodology for Common Core Survey
Following are some facts about the methodology for AFT’s recent survey of AFT K-12 teachers on Common Core implementation that may help to answer the criticisms and questions raised by Mercedes Schneider.
Schneider’s objections speak to two distinct questions: 1) does the survey reflect the views of AFT K-12 teachers?, and 2) if so, can the AFT results be extrapolated to all U.S. teachers? The answer to the first question is “yes,” for reasons explained below. The answer to the second question is “not necessarily.” When Randi Weingarten refers to what “teachers” think about the Common Core, she is referring to AFT teachers. This shorthand is not meant to deceive anyone; if it were, the press release and various poll materials would not have stated so clearly and repeatedly that the survey was conducted only among AFT members. (Indeed, even the quote highlighted by Schneider mentions “a recent poll of AFT members.”)
In fact, it is likely that a survey of all U.S. teachers would report results broadly similar to what we found among AFT members, for reasons explained below. However, it is true that we cannot be sure of this unless further research is done among non-AFT teachers. Such research would be welcome.
The survey employed a standard sampling methodology, used in countless surveys by many polling organizations. On behalf of AFT, Hart Research Associates conducted a telephone survey of 800 AFT K-12 teachers from March 27 to 30, 2013. Respondents were selected randomly from AFT membership lists. This process of random selection produces a representative sample, allowing us to generalize from the survey respondents to the larger population being sampled (in this case, all AFT teachers). There is nothing unusual or controversial about this method.
A sample size of 800 teachers is appropriate and common. Schneider notes that “AFT/Hart only surveyed nine one-hundredths of a percent of the AFT membership (.09%),” and adds for emphasis: “Please don’t miss this. AFT did not survey even 10% of its membership before forming an opinion of teacher acceptance of CCSS.” In fact, a survey sample size of 800 is reasonable and quite common: for example, most national media surveys interview between 800 and 1,000 registered voters. Moreover, researchers understand that survey samples are not properly evaluated as a percentage of the underlying population. By randomly selecting respondents, a relatively small sample can provide an accurate measurement on a much larger population. If Schneider’s 10% standard were correct, pollsters would need to interview 20 million U.S. voters to conduct a single survey of registered voters. Needless to say, not many surveys would be conducted.
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