What makes a good survey? Sure, there’s the wording of the questions, the quality of the pool of respondents and a host of other factors. One I like is the longevity of the poll. In this case, it’s 41 years for the PDK (Phi Delta Kappa International)/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.
Here are some of the key results:
The findings indicate that Americans continue to support annual testing of students in grades three through eight by a two-to-one margin, and they favor using a single national test rather than letting each state use its own. This opinion is held by Democrats and Republicans equally.
Two out of three Americans support charter schools, although many Americans are confused about whether charter schools are public schools and whether they can charge tuition, teach religion, or select their own students. During the last five years, Americans’ approval of charter schools has increased by 15 percent.
The 2009 poll also reveals that almost three out of four Americans favor merit pay for teachers regardless of political affiliation. Student academic achievement, administrator evaluations, and advanced degrees are the three most favored criteria for awarding merit pay.
NCLB Fatigue? Americans are also growing weary of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In fact, support for NCLB, which was passed in 2002, continues to decline as almost half of Americans view it unfavorably and only one in four Americans believe that it has helped schools in their communities.
Split Views on Teacher Tenure. American views are split on teacher tenure depending on how the question is phrased. They disapprove of teachers having a “lifetime contract” but agree that teachers should have a formal legal review before being terminated.
Dropout Rate of Top Importance. Almost nine out of 10 Americans believe that the U.S. high school dropout rate is either the most important or one of the most important problems facing high schools today. Offering more interesting classes was the suggestion offered most when asked what could help reduce the dropout rate.
PDK says the results are an endorsement of President Obama’s education agenda. I say it’s about time and let’s hope state and federal officials can build on the momentum and create some meaningful change to benefit all students.