Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The 39th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes toward the Public Schools

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The 39th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes toward the Public Schools

Article excerpt

THIS IS the 39th annual poll in this now venerable series. The noted pollster George Gallup was one of the poll's founders and, until his death in 1987, played the major role in selecting the questions and writing the article that appeared in each year's Phi Delta Kappan. His son Alec, chairman of the Gallup Poll, stepped into a leadership role after his father's death and has continued to work closely with those at Phi Delta Kappa to maintain the standard of quality established by George Gallup. The Gallup Organization goes far beyond the normal role for a polling firm. Alec Gallup approves the wording of each question and monitors the development of the poll report to guarantee that the suggested interpretations are supported by the data.

The poll has changed over the 39 years. It started as an effort to inform educators. While it continues to perform that role, it has come to serve as a source of information for those who shape education policy, and the database that has accumulated over 39 years of polling chronicles the growth and changes in K-12 schooling since the late 1960s.

As it has grown in importance, the PDK/Gallup Poll has fueled debate regarding K-12 schooling, and charges of bias are routine. With that in mind, we have gradually reshaped the poll report to make it user-friendly and to draw the reader into the analysis of the data. We report the data, state what we believe they say, and leave it to the reader to reach his or her own conclusions.

In this year's report, the statements following a table and designated as "Findings" are in the nature of summaries that we believe offer a fair interpretation of the data. Statements designated as "Conclusions" are highlighted because we think they capture the most significant of the poll results. These are offered as topics for debate. In the end, our aim is to let the data speak for themselves.

IMPROVING STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT

The 39th poll comes at a time when K-12 schooling is near the top of the agenda in state and national policy discussions, and efforts to improve student achievement dominate those discussions. Chief among the improvement efforts is No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the sweeping federal initiative. Given the importance of this law and the fact that the poll was founded on the belief that public support is a vital component of shaping effective education policy, it is appropriate to open this report with the public's reaction to NCLB and its principal strategy, standardized testing.

Public View of NCLB

Since 2003 the PDK/Gallup Poll has traced the evolving public response to NCLB. The analysis here focuses primarily on the questions asked in the current poll, but readers interested in more detail on the evolution of the public view should consult earlier poll reports.

A question asked every year since 2003 seeks to find out how much people know about NCLB. The responses are reported in Table 1. For the first time, a majority (54%) say they know a great deal or a fair amount about the law. Sixty-five percent of public school parents give this response. However, 46% of the total group still say they know very little or nothing at all about NCLB. This percentage drops to 35% for public school parents.

An important question is whether the gradual gain in knowledge about NCLB is causing the public to have a more favorable or more unfavorable view of the law. Trend data for this question are reported in Table 2. While 31 % say they have a very or somewhat favorable view of the law, 40% say they have a somewhat or very unfavorable view. The percentage selecting one of the two favorable responses has grown by 13% since 2003, while the percentage choosing one of the two unfavorable responses has climbed by 27%. An even stronger unfavorable view of NCLB is held by those who say they know a great deal or a fair amount about the law.

* FINDING: It seems fair to say that, as the public knowledge of NCLB grows, the public's view of NCLB is becoming less and less favorable. …

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