Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Is Anybody Listening?

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Is Anybody Listening?

Article excerpt

Two large concrete disks fitted with seats don't attract much attention on the Brickyard gathering spot on North Carolina State University's campus in Raleigh, N.C. When you sit on the seat in one of those disks and speak in a normal voice, sometimes even in a whisper, someone sitting in the seat in the other disk can hear you quite clearly, even though the disks are 90 feet apart. The disks are parabolic reflectors, which amplify and focus sound waves.

It's been years since I sat in one of those concrete disks, but I thought of that phenomenon over and over again as I read through the results of this year's PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. A lot of what we learned from the poll is old news or at least not very surprising news: Testing is flunking with Americans, the public isn't really behind the Common Core, Americans want the federal government to play a less active role in education, and lack of funding is the biggest problem facing local schools. Oh, and everybody thinks their own schools are better than everyone else's.

But this year, for the first time, we were able to discern whether there are differences among whites, blacks, and Hispanics when it comes to education. We learned that there are more similarities than differences, but there also are some key differences that deserve attention. Blacks and Hispanics are more inclined than whites to believe standardized tests can be used to improve schools and are good tools for comparing school quality. Blacks are significantly more likely than whites to want teachers to use the Common Core. Blacks said parents should not be able to excuse their child from taking a standardized test, and blacks overwhelmingly said they would not excuse their own child from such an exam.

Blacks gave President Obama significantly higher grades on education than did whites. The president's education agenda, of course, includes endorsing the Common Core and using standardized testing to gauge student achievement and school quality. …

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