Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

A Time for Change: The 42nd Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes toward the Public Schools

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

A Time for Change: The 42nd Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes toward the Public Schools

Article excerpt

Change is the new constant--the new status quo. Yet, while we thrive on technological advances, we worry that our social systems can't keep pace with the accelerating rate of change. We have witnessed the rise and collapse of businesses and organizations, large and small, unable to evolve quickly enough to avoid extinction, and wonder how could that happen. We can't imagine living without iPods, Internet, and cell phones, yet we still reminisce about the good old days. But that was then. This is now.

More than ever, improvements in technology and changes in social infrastructures require that all organizations, whether they operate for profit or not for profit, implement thoughtful improvements in how they provide services or create products. Public schools aren't exempt. For educators, this means identifying more efficient and effective approaches to helping all students learn.

Making the right changes requires research that primarily falls into two categories: 1) the analysis of experts, and 2) the opinions of stakeholders and consumers. Both sources of information are essential to organizations in order to avoid extinction.

The annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools is the most trusted source of American opinion about schools. It is not an advocacy poll. It is a carefully constructed research tool that provides direct feedback from the public--feedback that can provide corrective information to improve performance, feedback that educators and policy makers should seriously consider before implementing improvements to how teachers teach and children learn.


A diverse and bipartisan group of education experts assembled in February to debate the issues and identify topics for this year's poll (see page 26). This year, the following topics surfaced:

* The federal role in public education

* School quality

* Teacher salaries and teacher evaluation

* Teacher quality and perceptions of the teaching profession

* Student learning and rewards

* The importance of a college education

* Charter schools and parental choice

* The parents' perspective about their child's learning and their child's future

With this PDK/Gallup poll report, you see the questions verbatim as they were asked--enabling you to make your own interpretation and reach your own conclusions of how Americans perceive the public schools.


The federal role in public education continues to be a contentious issue in the United States, so we probed the topic with a series of questions. In one of its most aggressive reform efforts, the U.S. Department of Education Education will identify 5,000 of America's lowest-performing schools for turnaround efforts, requiring that these schools use one of four required models to improve student learning at their sites: 1) turnaround--replacing the principal and a portion of the staff; 2) restart--closing the school and re-opening it as a charter school; 3) closure--closing the school permanently and enrolling students in higher-performing schools; and 4) transformational--keeping the staff but replacing the principal while providing comprehensive outside support. As it turns out, Americans have definite opinions about this controversial topic.

We asked questions to better understand if Americans believe public education should be a federal, state, or local responsibility; if Americans knew whether the economic stimulus funds directed toward education were spent in their own community; which national education programs are of greatest importance to Americans; and how Americans rate the President's support of public education. And we hope that the 2010 PDK/Gallup poll will mark the last time we ask Americans their opinions about the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation enacted in January 2002, as it is already more than three years overdue for reauthorization by Congress. …

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