PDK poll offers answers but leaves questions

Parents and the public favor racially and socioeconomically diverse schools, and they don’t put much stock in using standardized tests to measure school quality. At least that’s what they told the pollsters who conducted the 49th annual Phi Delta Kappa Poll of the Public’s Attitudes toward the Public Schools.

But if that’s the case, why do so many affluent parents get up in arms over proposals to desegregate their neighborhood schools. Why do we accept the idea that property values are higher where schools are whiter and test scores are better?

Are the poll respondents just giving answers that make them sound reasonable? Or do a majority really embrace values of tolerance and diversity. As always, the poll provides a lot of information but leaves plenty of questions for us to debate.

Results of the PDK poll were released this week. On diversity, it found that 70 percent of parents say they would prefer for their child to attend a racially diverse school, and 61 percent prefer an economically mixed school. A majority of the public said racial and economic diversity is good for schools.

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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. Continue reading

PDK poll, teacher effectiveness, Friedman on ‘what works’

Results of Bloomington-based Phi Delta Kappa’s annual Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools were released this week, and they were, as usual, interesting.

Much of the news coverage focused on the fact that only 34 percent of the public gave President Obama a grade of A or B for his education policies, compared with 45 percent last year. But there wasn’t a lot of evidence that the public knows what the president’s education policies are.

In fact, only 20 percent of respondents were aware that any federal stimulus money went for education when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocated $100 billion for schools.

The public claimed teacher effectiveness is the No. 1 issue facing the schools, putting it in synch with the Obama administration. The poll also found increasing support for charter schools, an administration priority.

But respondents did seem to disagree with the administration’s “school turnaround” approach, which prescribes closing failing schools or removing principals and/or teachers. Continue reading