Happening Today: Education Week Leadership Symposium. Learn more and register.

Polls Find NCLB is Unpopular, But Accountability Isn’t

August 22, 2008 1 min read

Phi Delta Kappa and Education Next offer side-by-side comparisons of the American public’s opinion of NCLB.

PDK found that 16 percent of the public wants to “extend the law without change.” Ed Next says that 21 percent want to “renew the law as is” and another 29 percent want “minimal changes.” PDK’s survey reports that 42 percent want to change the law “significantly,” and Education Next said that 27 percent want “major changes.” (Education Next provides a sample of teachers and found they are far more likely to dislike NCLB than the general public. Here’s one teacher’s opinion about the law.)

One reason for the differences is the options given to the respondents. PDK offered respondents the chance to say “don’t know;" Education Next didn’t. Ed Next gave the option of small changes; PKD didn’t. Another reason may be PDK’s sample, which doesn’t look much like America, as Sherman Dorn points out.

But also look closely at the questions. PDK asked for an opinion of the “No Child Left Behind Act” with no description of what the law does. Ed Next described how NCLB requires states to set standards, assess students to see if they’re making progress, and intervene in schools where students aren’t meeting goals. People seem to like the law more when they know what it does.

This doesn’t show that No Child Left Behind is “the most tainted brand in America,” as Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., has said repeatedly in the past six months. But it does suggest that standards and accountability are popular ideas, even if NCLB isn’t.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Posting on this blog will be light next week. As Michele McNeil announced on Wednesday, she and I will be at the Democratic National Convention. We’ll have a backpack full of equipment so we can take video, Twitter, and blog. You can follow us by signing at Ed Week’s twitter feed or through Campaign K-12.

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.