Published Online: August 22, 2006

NCLB Seen as Ineffective, Poll Suggests

Almost 70 percent of American adults who say they are familiar with the federal No Child Left Behind Act believe it has had no effect or is actually hurting public schools, says a nationwide survey released today.

The 38th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools surveyed 1,007 adults on issues such as how public schools are evalu-ated, how school improvement should occur, and the state of current reform efforts.

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“The views expressed in this year’s PDK/Gallup poll should serve as a wake-up call to our nation’s policymakers as they begin the process of reauthorizing NCLB in 2007,” William Bushaw, the executive director of Bloomington, Ind.-based PDK International, said in a statement.

More American adults reported being knowledgeable about No Child Left Behind than in previous surveys, but many have an unfavorable view of the law. Forty-five percent of those polled said they knew either “a great deal” or “a fair amount” about the federal law, up from 40 percent last year and 31 percent two years ago.

However, of this group, 31 percent said the law was hurting the performance of public schools in their communities, and 37 percent said it had made no difference. Twenty-nine percent said it was helping their local public schools.

State tests as mandated by NCLB currently require students to be assessed only in reading and mathematics. In this year’s survey, 69 percent of respondents said a single test will not provide a fair picture of whether a school needs improvement, and 81 percent said they believed testing requirements should include assessments of students’ knowledge in subjects beyond just reading and math. The No Child Left Behind law requires states to test students in science at least once annually in each 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 grade span, beginning in the 2007-08 school year.

‘A Clear Message’

NCLB: Help or Hindrance

Americans who report knowing a great deal or a fair amount about the NCLB law are more inclined to think it is hurting public schools than the public at large.

*Click image to see the full chart

SOURCE: Phi Delta Kappa International

Despite the negative public perception of No Child Left Behind, the poll showed an overall positive view of the nation’s public schools. When asked how educators should attempt to improve education, 71 percent of respondents preferred improvements in the existing public school system, rather than establishing an alternative system.

“The fact that the public’s support of its local schools is unaffected by the criticism directed at public schools in general should send a clear message… that change proposals should be built on the assumption that people like the schools they have,” Lowell C. Rose, the executive director emeritus of PDK International and co-author of the study, said in a statement.

In addition, just 19 percent of the poll’s respondents blame the quality of schooling for the achievement gap between white students and their minority counterparts, while the overwhelming majority, 77 percent, attribute the inequality to “other factors.”

The poll also addressed the topic of charter schools and choice, finding that the public has several misconceptions about the nature of charter schools. For example, only 39 percent of those polled knew that charters are public schools. The majority of respondents believed charters are free to teach religion, charge tuition, and select students on the basis of ability, when, in fact, they are prohibited from doing any those things.

In addition, the poll asked people whether they favored or opposed allowing parents to choose to have their children attend private schools at public expense. Of those surveyed, 36 percent favored the idea while 60 percent opposed it.

Vol. 26, Issue 01

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