The general public is quite skeptical about school vouchers, standardized testing, and teacher evaluations using student test scores, according to the annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll, released August 21. But those surveyed continued to give record-high grades to their local public schools and showed strong support for charter schools.
The general public also overwhelmingly feels that schools are safe, and supports more funding for mental-health services instead of hiring security guards.
This year, 53 percent of the public gave their local schools a grade of A or B, the highest percentage recorded in the poll’s 45-year history. Public education as a whole received an average of a C, consistent with recent polls.
Public school parents named “lack of financial support” and “overcrowding” as the biggest problems facing public schools. PDK/Gallup reported that three concerns have risen on the list of the biggest problems facing public schools: lack of parental support, difficulties in getting good teachers, and testing requirements and regulations.
The poll also showed that a majority of the public believes charters do a better job educating students than traditional public schools, and two of three respondents support opening more charters in their communities. Yet, support for private school vouchers was extremely low, with only 29 percent of the respondents said children should be allowed to attend private schools at public expense.
And in a question that was sharply divided on partisan lines, 55 percent of respondents oppose providing a free public education to children of illegal immigrants. A majority also support home-schooling and support allowing home-schooled students to attend public school part-time and participate in athletic programs.
The poll also showed a growing skepticism toward standardized testing in schools, where 36 percent of those questioned said increased testing was hurting the performance of their local schools, 41 percent said it had made no difference, and 22 percent said it helped. In 2007, 28 percent of respondents said testing had helped their schools.
William Bushaw, executive director of PDK International and co-director of the PDK/Gallup poll, said in written remarks, “Americans’ mistrust of standardized tests and their lack of confidence and understanding around new education standards is one the most surprising developments we’ve found in years. The 2013 poll shows deep confusion around the nation’s most significant education policies and poses serious communication challenges for education leaders.”
Further, the public knows very little about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)—slated to go into effect in 2014—and those who do still don’t understand it, the poll found. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they had never heard of CCSS, and of the remaining 38 percent, most believed that the federal government was forcing states to adapt the standards and that the standards covered more subjects than English/language arts and mathematics.
NSBA and the major administrators’ groups issued a statement in May that supported the principles behind Common Core but warned states and districts face “very real obstacles” to align their curricula with the new standards and administer the required tests.
In June, the Learning First Alliance, a coalition of 16 education groups including NSBA, called on lawmakers to give states and school districts more time to transition to the Common Core, noting that there needs to be more time to develop the proper resources for students and teachers, including curriculum, assessments, and professional development.
The 2013 PDK/Gallup poll results are available at www.pdkpoll.org.