What are the five most important findings in the 2013 PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools? As co-director of the poll, let me offer my top five.
1. Common Core State Standards are a mystery. Almost two of three Americans have never heard of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and among the third who have, only four of 10 believe the standards can help make education in the United States more competitive globally. This poses a serious communication challenge for one of the most important education initiatives of our time. No question—education leaders were caught off-guard by criticism of the standards that emerged less than a year ago. What’s important now is to get accurate information about the CCSS to all Americans.
2. Americans are losing confidence in standardized tests. Three of four Americans believe that the increase in student standardized testing during the last decade has either had no effect or hurt instruction in their local schools, and a majority of Americans (58%) do not support using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers. It seems that Americans are questioning the degree to which standardized tests can accurately measure all that happens in the classroom.
3. Americans don’t want guns in schools. By a margin of almost two-to-one, Americans support increasing mental health services rather than hiring more security guards to promote school safety. Most Americans reject arming teachers and administrators, but they do support screening procedures for visitors to elementary, middle, and high schools, similar to those used in government buildings.
4. There is growing acceptance for alternative forms of teaching and learning. Americans’ support for public charter schools remains high at slightly less than 70%, and a majority of Americans believe that public charter schools provide a better education than other public schools. Sixty percent of Americans support allowing parents to homeschool their children, and an overwhelming majority of Americans favor having public schools provide services to homeschooled children. Three of four Americans favor allowing high school students to earn college credits via the Internet. We view this as a transition in perspectives among Americans; they are becoming more accepting of different forms of teaching and learning. However, 70% of Americans oppose private school vouchers — the highest level of opposition to vouchers ever recorded in this survey.
5. Making college affordable is the top priority. Of the three education priorities identified by President Obama, making college more affordable was rated most important followed by making more investments in early childhood education, and last, redesigning America’s high schools. Support for making college more affordable is consistent with American’s belief that a high school graduate is not prepared for a career while most Americans agree that a college graduate is ready for work. Three of four Americans believe preschool programs for children from low-income households would help these children perform better in school in their teenage years, and almost two of three Americans are willing to support these programs with taxes.
That’s it—my five most important findings. Do you agree or do you have other ideas?
You can access a free copy of the full report at www.pdkpoll.org or get a copy by downloading the free Phi Delta Kappan iPad app. Then you can comment below, tweet your reactions (hashtag #pdkpoll), or post your thoughts at www.facebook.com/pdkintl.