PDK/Gallup Poll: Mixed messages as usual

There’s something for everyone in the 2012 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitude Toward Public Schools, results of which were released this month.

For supporters of accountability and market-based education policies:

// Two-thirds of respondents favor charter schools.
// Support for school vouchers rose to 44 percent from 34 percent last year.
// 70 percent like the “parent trigger” idea – letting parents of children in a failing school vote to remove the principal and staff.

On the other hand, there are findings to cheer supporters of public education:

// 71 percent have “trust and confidence” in public school teachers.
// 62 percent would pay higher taxes to improve the quality of urban schools.
// A 35 percent plurality says the biggest problem facing local schools is a lack of funding. Ten years ago, people were more likely to blame education problems on drugs, crowding and a lack of discipline.

The poll found an even divide on whether teachers should be evaluated on students’ test scores. “Americans really are split on that issue,” Phi Delta Kappa Executive Director William Bushaw told April Toler of the Bloomington Herald-Times, PDK’s home-town paper. “Half say yes, half say no.”

PDK/Gallup found support and ambivalence and not much opposition to the Common Core Standards. Half said the standards will improve education locally, while just 8 percent said they will hurt.

Possibly the most telling finding is this: Every year, people think the nation’s schools are lousy but local schools are pretty good. Only 19 percent give the nation’s schools a grade of A or B, but almost half give local public schools an A or B – and 77 percent of public-school parents give their oldest child’s school an A or B.

In other words, the more familiar people are with public schools, the better they like them.

Bennett for secretary of education?

Indiana’s Tony Bennett is probably on a short list of people that Mitt Romney would want as secretary of education if Romney wins the presidency, according to Education Week’s Alyson Klein. She puts Bennett right behind two former governors: Jeb Bush of Florida and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.

“Often mentioned is Tony Bennett, Indiana’s superintendent of Public Instruction, and one of the original members of (Jeb Bush’s) Chiefs for Change,” Klein writes. “Bennett’s been highly visible on education issues and has lots of fans among Republicans, including former Gov. Bush.”

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