NCLB Seen as Largely Ineffective, PDK-Gallup Poll Finds

By Laura Greifner — August 29, 2006 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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, according to a nationwide survey released last week.

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 evaluated, how school improvement should occur, and the state of current reform efforts.

“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.

Links to the 38th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll, as well as further resources on the survey, are available from Phi Delta Kappa.

More American adults reported being knowledgeable about the No Child Left Behind law than in previous PDK-Gallup surveys, but many expressed an unfavorable view of it. 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 that 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.

The poll has a margin of error of 3 to 4 percentage points.

Under the 4½-year-old law, states must test students annually in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 and once during high school. Sixty-nine percent of the poll respondents said a single test in each of those subjects would 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 reading and math.

The No Child Left Behind law also requires states to begin giving science tests at certain grade levels in the 2007-08 school year.

‘Consider the Source’

Some organizations questioned the results of the poll and suggested that PDK, a professional educators’ organization that they believe is ideologically aligned with teachers’ unions, was trying to preserve the status quo through the wording of its survey questions.

“Consider the source of the poll,” said Kati Haycock, the director of the Washington-based research and advocacy group Education Trust, which has been supportive of the NCLB law. “These guys are not exactly an unbiased source.”

One question, for instance, asked respondents 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.

The Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, an Indianapolis-based foundation that advocates vouchers and other school choice programs, and the Washington-based Cato Institute, a think tank that promotes a free-market philosophy, argue that the wording misleads poll interpreters into thinking that the public opposes school choice.

The Friedman Foundation commissioned its own poll last year, asking respondents instead if they favored or opposed allowing students and parents to choose any type of school at public expense. With that wording, 60 percent of the 1,000 adults surveyed favored allowing the students to choose, while only 33 percent opposed it.

Lowell C. Rose, the executive director emeritus of PDK and a co-author of the survey, countered that Gallup has the final say in the wording of the poll questions, ensuring that they are free of bias.

The PDK-Gallup 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,” Mr. Rose said in a statement.

A version of this article appeared in the August 30, 2006 edition of Education Week as NCLB Seen as Largely Ineffective, PDK-Gallup Poll Finds


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Opinion The Great Project 2025 Freakout
There's nothing especially scary in the Heritage Foundation's education agenda—nor is it a reliable gauge of another Trump administration.
6 min read
Man lurking behind the American flag, suspicion concept.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Federal Data Is the Federal Agency That Tracks School Data Losing Steam?
A new study of U.S. data agencies finds serious capacity problems at the National Center for Education Statistics.
3 min read
Illustration of data bar charts and line graphs superimposed over a school crossing sign.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and iStock/Getty images
Federal Trump's VP Pick: What We Know About JD Vance's Record on Education
Two days after a gunman tried to assassinate him, former President Donald Trump announced Ohio Sen. JD Vance as his running mate.
4 min read
Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, right, points toward Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, March 16, 2024, in Vandalia, Ohio.
Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, right, points toward Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, March 16, 2024, in Vandalia, Ohio. Trump on July 15 announced the first-term Ohio senator as his running mate.
Jeff Dean/AP
Federal In Wake of Trump Assassination Attempt, Biden Calls for Unity and Investigation Gets Underway
President Biden condemns violence, the FBI searches for a motive, and Trump heads to RNC.
3 min read
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa.
Former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents after being struck by gunfire at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. The day after the attempted assasination of the Republican nominee for president, Trump arrived in Milwaukee ahead of the start of the Republican National Convention and President Joe Biden gave a prime-time address, saying "politics must never be a literal battlefied. God forbid, a killing field."
Evan Vucci/AP