Surprises in the 2010 PDK/Gallup Poll about Public Schools
Often, the first question reporters ask when interviewing me about the PDK/Gallup poll results is, “What did you find most surprising?”That’s a good question because when you create new questions, you always have in your mind how you think Americans will respond. So here is my list of the most surprising results from the 2010 PDK/Gallup poll of the “Public’s Attitudes Toward their Public Schools.” (you can a FREE copy of the poll report at http://www.pdkpoll.org)
- When asked, 73% of Americans said they believe academic success is based on how hard students try, not on their natural ability. In creating this question, I thought Americans would be evenly split, half thinking it was natural ability, and the other half believing it was effort. It’s reassuring that most Americans still believe hard work pays off.
- With all the talk by the President and others about turning around poor performing schools, I was surprised that only one in five Americans believes that the federal government should hold schools accountable. I wish the U.S. Department of Education leaders would examine their accountability strategies and recognize that they must work closely with state departments of educations (SEA). I think they understand SEA’s are the agent for accountability but their messages are either off target or misinterpreted.
- It should never surprise me that Americans believe in fairness. When asked what the primary purpose of teacher evaluation should be, 60% of Americans indicated that evaluation should be used to help teachers improve their ability to teach, significantly higher than the other two alternatives, i.e., documenting ineffectiveness that could lead to dismissal, and establishing salaries based upon performance.
- I was pleasantly surprised by the high percentage of Americans (71%) who state that they have trust and confidence in the men and women who teach in the public schools.
- I was surprised that from a list, Americans picked improving the quality of our teachers as the most important national education initiative. It demonstrates that Americans are willing to commit to long-term strategies as opposed to short-term initiatives that some policymakers find more favorable.
What never surprises me is the common sense that Americans display in responding to our questions each year about public schooling in America.