Support for public schools and opposition to private-school vouchers come through loud and clear in the latest Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll of Americans’ attitudes toward public education (http://pdkintl.org/programs-resources/poll/).
Some 70 percent opposed using public funds to pay for students to attend private schools—the highest level of opposition to vouchers ever recorded in this annual survey series. At the same time, 71 percent of parents gave an A or B rating to the public schools their children attend—the highest percentage in 20 years.
Among other striking findings:
–“Fewer than one of four Americans said the increase in student testing has helped improve local public schools.”
–Some 58 percent opposed the use of students’ scores on standardized tests in teacher evaluations.
–Sixty percent opposed releasing information to newspapers about how students of individual teachers perform on standardized tests—but the same percentage also supported public release of teachers’ performance reviews. (Interestingly, an even higher number–76 percent–said performance reviews of physicians should be released.)
–Teachers in our public schools have the trust and confidence of 72 percent of Americans—including 78 percent of Americans under 40—according to the new poll.
–Lack of financial support was cited most frequently as the biggest problem facing our schools.
As the pollsters noted, there appears to be a “significant rift” between policymakers forging ahead with test-driven “reforms” and the ordinary citizens and parents of America, whose skepticism toward that agenda seems to be growing.
AFT President Randi Weingarten offered this assessment of the poll results:
“This poll makes it clear that the American people soundly reject the agenda being pushed by austerity hawks and market-based reformers to starve public schools of resources and fixate instead on testing, opt-outs and sanctions. Americans want to invest in public schools and ensure children learn the skills they need to compete in the 21st century, and they are united in trusting public school teachers and having faith in public schools. These results mirror what we found in our national poll of parents….
“While the PDK/Gallup poll showed strong support for charters—which is consistent with past poll results—there is a different result based on the way the question is asked. When parents are asked to choose between charters and neighborhood public schools, as the AFT parent poll released last month found, 77 percent say that ensuring every child has access to a good public school is the best way to improve public education.
“What’s clear in poll after poll is that parents and teachers have a shared vision for how we reclaim the promise of public education and ensure all children reach their full potential. It’s time for policymakers to change course and listen to what the American people want for their schools.”
A similar commentary came from Helen Gym, cofounder of Parents United for Public Education and a pro-public-education blogger based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She wrote: “Parents overwhelmingly believe in public schools. We want financial support and smaller class sizes. We want a focus on teaching and learning, not just test scores. Since education policy makers say parent support is a top indicator of school success, they would do well to act on what parents are saying.”