On Wednesday, Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) and Gallup released the results of their 45th annual Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, which offers interesting insights about the public’s views on a variety of issues, from education funding to teacher performance to school safety. For decades, PDK and Gallup have asked Americans to grade the public schools in their community as well as the nation’s public schools as a whole. This year, a record 53 percent of respondents gave the schools in their communities an A or B, while most people rate the nation’s schools as just average, which has been fairly consistent over the years. Further, 72 percent of Americans say they “have trust and confidence in the men and women who are teaching children in the public schools,” and 65 percent have trust in principals.
A number of other findings from the PDK/Gallup poll are sure to make headlines across the country.
• Common Core State Standards: The Common Core State Standards have now been adopted by 45 states, Washington, D.C., and three territories. However, the PDK/Gallup poll found that only 38 percent of Americans have heard of the CCSS. The findings also revealed that "of those Americans who were aware of the CCSS, many said--erroneously--that the standards are based on a blending of state standards, the federal government is insisting that all states adopt the standards, and there is a plan to create standards in all academic areas."
• Online Opportunities: The PDK/Gallup poll results indicate that 80 percent of public school parents favor increasing opportunities for high school students to earn college credits online.
• Safety: In recent months, many districts have taken steps, including hiring security guards and investing in mental health services, to strengthen school safety. According to the PDK/Gallup poll, 33 percent of Americans believe that hiring more security guards would make schools safer, while 59 percent believe that increased mental health services will promote safer schools. Six percent of respondents believed that both would be equally effective.
• Public Charters: Sixty-seven percent of PDK/Gallup poll participants said they would support new public charter schools in their community.
• Support of Extracurricular Activities: More than 90 percent of Americans believe that activities, such as sports, drama, the school newspaper, and band, are "very important" or "somewhat important" to a child's education.
• Student Skills: As many educational-improvement efforts focus on preparing students for future success in college and a career, PDK/Gallup asked poll participants which skills were most important in the 21st century. Eighty percent of PDK/Gallup poll respondents strongly agreed that schools should teach critical thinking skills, while 78 percent strongly agree that communication skills are important. While support was not as strong, a majority of Americans still believe that collaboration, creativity, character, and well-being are also important 21st century skills.
This year’s PDK/Gallup poll also provides important feedback for K-12 talent managers on several HR related policy changes that are occurring right now in many states and school districts across the country.
• Evaluations and Testing: Poll results show a declining number of Americans, from 52 percent in 2012 to 41 percent in 2013, favor including student test scores in teacher evaluations.
• Release of Individual Teacher Test Scores: Public opinion has also shifted on whether or not newspapers should release information about how the students of individual teachers perform on standardized tests. Fifty-one percent of Americans supported releasing this data in 2012, but only 37 percent are in favor today.
• Release of Individual Performance Evaluations: Strangely, 60 percent of people WERE in favor of releasing teachers' performance reviews to the public.
• Strikes: From 1980 to 2013, parents' views have shifted on whether public school teachers should be permitted to strike. Forty-three percent of respondents in 1980 said that teachers should be permitted to strike compared to 47 percent in 2013.
As local, state, and federal lawmakers, education leaders, and other key stakeholders consider changes to education policy, it is important to keep a pulse on public perception of these issues, because the decisions we make in educating our young people ultimately impact all Americans. I encourage you to review the full PDK/Gallup poll report and share your thoughts.
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