Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Which Way Do We Go?

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Which Way Do We Go?

Article excerpt

American policy makers are forging ahead with education initiatives, but they may be leaving Americans behind and out of the loop.

As 45 states stand on the brink of one of the most ambitious education initiatives in our lifetime, Americans say they don't believe standardized tests improve education, and they aren't convinced rigorous new education standards will help. These are some of the findings in the 45th annual PDK/ Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.

Results of the poll come in a time of unsettledness in the American education franchise. Recent major reform efforts--No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the Common Core State Standards--face uncertain futures even as the poll lays bare a significant rift between policy makers and ordinary citizens and parents.

For example:

* Fewer than 25% of Americans believe increased testing has helped the performance of local public schools.

* A majority of Americans reject using student scores from standardized tests to evaluate teachers.

* Almost two of three Americans have never heard of the Common Core State Standards, arguably one of the most important education initiatives in decades, and most of those who say they know about the Common Core neither understand it nor embrace it.

62% have never
heard of the
Common Core

Only 22%
helps school

58% reject using
student test scores
to evaluate teachers

In addition:

* Americans said their children are safe at school, and they reject the idea of arming teachers and principals.

* Americans support public charter schools, homeschooling, online learning, and self-paced instruction, but they reject school vouchers.

* While it's no surprise that Americans believe that high school dropouts are unprepared for careers, they also said high school graduates are unprepared for careers or college.

* A majority of Americans give the public schools in their community an A or B--the highest rating ever recorded by this poll--but fewer than one of five would give the schools nationally a B or better.

* Americans value having schools teach 21st-century skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.

* Americans trust public school teachers and principals.

* Americans said preschool programs for children living in low-income homes would help those students perform better in school in their teenage years.

* Parents said schools do a poor job teaching children how to manage their finances more effectively.

The PDK/Gallup Poll is a scientifically based survey of 1,001 Americans 18 years and older. Because it is conducted annually and revisits many questions asked in prior years, the poll illuminates how American opinion about education changes over time. The poll also poses new questions developed by a panel of advisers convened to identify emerging issues.

As in the past, every question asked in the poll is reported, and all questions are listed verbatim as they were asked during telephone polling conducted in May 2013. While we present interpretations, we encourage readers to decide for yourselves whether the responses support the analysis. Please join us on Facebook and LinkedIn to express your own opinions.

Common Core and new student tests

Most states have voluntarily adopted the Common Core State Standards, the result of an initiative launched in June 2009 as a bipartisan partnership between the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Intentionally, the U.S. Department of Education was not involved in developing these college and career standards in English language arts and mathematics. But Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made his support for the Common Core clear, and the education department spent $330 million to develop new and better student assessments to align with the standards. …

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