New PDK/Gallup Poll: Public’s School Attitudes Adjust Annually, So What?

30 08 2007

As Congress debates changes to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act with an eye to maximizing the achievement of all students, the following findings from the 2007 PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools highlight potential improvements in our nation’s education policy and identify the public’s interests and concerns. Now in its 39th year, the PDK/Gallup poll is the only authoritative source of longitudinal data on the public’s views on the nation’s schools and education policy.

This latest poll seems full of good news — but after 39 years, mainly just old news to me. I’ve followed this poll as an education “expert” myself for almost 30 of those years. Here’s the poll news from five years ago, if you want a post-millennium snapshot to compare the newest news with.

Talk about public education, seems this year’s “public” has finally learned its lesson about why standardized testing isn’t learning at all. A critical mass of the citizenry seems ready to begin a thesis on why No Child Left Behind should be left behind, if not expelled.

So NCLB and testing is out of favor, and change (in the form of public charters at least) is still gaining ground.

Good news, I guess.

But now what? School governance by political polling and corporate camel-nosing into school tents is what’s WRONG with public education in the first place, not right answers and certainly not well-thought-out reform. So we can’t just go by the public polls.

If we’ve learned anything by now as a people, surely it should’ve been that changes based on public polling aren’t progress so much as evermore good will and tax money sacrificed to the twin idols of “what all kids should know” and “what all teachers should make.” I find the education experts’ interpretations and policy advice accompanying the poll to be self-serving, self-congratulatory and in a few places, downright offensive.

A few “Lessons for Leaders”:

“It seems more than coincidental that the growing dissatisfaction with testing comes at a time when the use of test data in guiding high-stakes decisions has exploded.
Schoolpeople must be prepared to explain to students, parents, and the community why each test is needed and what purpose it serves. . .”

“Respondents recognize that we live in a world where what happens anywhere can affect us all. The challenge for school leaders is how to respond in a positive way.
In building support for strong international programs, schools should seek to forge links with and gain support from those who routinely operate in a globalized world. . .”

“Ironically, the key to success in fixing NCLB may be doing what the law set out to do, but doing it right by building in flexibility, involving those affected, and focusing on assistance rather than punishment. But the goals of NCLB can only be a guide. Such factors as practicality, level of resources, and staff and community acceptance must also be considered.
Change demands creativity.
An opportunity lost is another door of opportunity opened.
Weak leaders rejoice in the mistakes of others; strong leaders learn from them.”

Here’s the “handy one-page flyer” version:

(excerpts)
Public Opinion Shifts Against NCLB
~ Only 1 in 4 Americans believe that NCLB is helping their local schools; the rest believe the law is either making no difference or hurting schools.~ For the first time since 2003, more Americans have an unfavorable view (40%) of NCLB than a favorable one (31%).

~ Similarly, for the first time, more Americans (49%) would blame the law if large numbers of schools fail to meet the requirements than would blame the schools (43%).

Testing
~ In just the last five years, the number of Americans who believe there is too much emphasis on testing in their local schools has jumped by 12%.
~ Eight in 10 Americans prefer that school effectiveness be measured by improvement in student achievement rather than the current method that calculates adequate yearly progress (AYP).

Narrowing the Curriculum
~ One of every two Americans believes that NCLB’s focus on reading and mathematics has reduced instructional time in other subjects.
~ Nine in 10 of those who feel that NCLB has resulted in a narrower curriculum are concerned about it.

Globalization
~ Nearly 6 in 10 Americans think that students need to spend more time learning about other nations and cultures.
~ Nearly 9 in 10 Americans believe that all children should become proficient in a second language in addition to English; 7 in 10 believe that foreign language instruction should begin in elementary school.

PDK International is a 501(c)(3) association of over 40,000 education professionals that promotes high-quality education for all since 1906.

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2 responses

1 09 2007
JJ

It figures.

[NCLB] passed in 2001 with overwhelming bipartisan support but
. . . in a sign of the difficult political calculus in extending a measure that has opponents on both the right and the left, for every supporter of the proposed changes, there has emerged an opponent.

1 09 2007
JJ

Dörner’s Logic of Failure is, of course, why public polling (even by this, ahem, singularly “authoritative” professional organization) can’t reform the schools and make them into real education:

. . .most of us are too simpleminded, especially when it comes to anticipating future trends or interactive processes. We don’t think about the implications and consequences of what we want, or want to do, with results that come back to haunt us.

. . . The world always has been very complex, but as the ambition and scale of our intentions has increased in modern times, the malevolent implications and consequences of our simple-mindedness becomes more and more frequent and compelling. . .

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