Great News for Public Schools
Two weeks ago there was some very good news for public schools as the results of the 38th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward Public Schools were released. Here are ten conclusions of the poll:
Conclusion I. The public's strong preference is to seek improvement through the existing public schools. Policies shaped with this fact in mind are most likely to gain public approval.
Conclusion II. Public ratings of the local schools are near the top of their 38-year range.
Conclusion III. The closer people get to the schools in the community, the higher the grades they give them.
Conclusion IV. Policies at the state and federal levels that build on the assumption that local schools have a high approval rating are likely to gain public support.
Conclusion V. Gaining public support for school improvement will be more likely if proposals are based on the schools in the community and not on the nation's schools.
Conclusion VI. There has been no decline in public support for public schools. Approval ratings remain high and remarkably stable.
Conclusion VII. Support for vouchers is declining and stands in the mid-30% range.
Conclusion VIII. Those who would implement the charter school concept should ensure that the public has a clear understanding of the nature of such schools.
Conclusion IX. There is near-consensus support for the belief that the problems the public schools face result from societal issues and not from the quality of schooling.
Conclusion X. The public is aware of the link between adequate funding and effective schooling and understands that current funding levels are a challenge for schools.
To me, the results of this poll were very encouraging, but to be honest, I was surprised. Maybe I shouldn't have been. I think our school is fairly typical, and most people in our community seem to think we do a good job. Oh, we have our share of malcontents, and a lot of people have complaints about individual policies or teachers, but all in all, most people are supportive of what we do. People who want their kids to be able to go to college almost always get their wish, and the same is true for those who simply want their kids to be able to enter the working world with a high school diploma. If people in the community get upset about something our schools are doing, we almost always try to respond to that. I think it's fair to say that the people of Warroad have got something pretty close to the schools they want, and I would guess the same is true in communities across the nation.
So why was I surprised by the results of this poll? Never in my lifetime can I recall an effort by so many people and groups to belittle public schools and undercut what we are trying to do.
Book after book gets published blasting public education and blogs are started that do the same thing; the television networks run programs with titles like "Stupid America: How We Are Cheating Our Kids;" groups like the Exodus Mandate publicly set a goal of getting one million parents to take their kids out of public schools; and last, but not least, we have a national educational reform program which features "failing schools" and is titled No Child Left Behind. In other words, when kids don't perform, it's because those uncaring people in the schools are just leaving them behind.
Thankfully, many people aren't buying the crap that has been thrown at them over the past several years by public school haters. And I have to admit that this is not the first time that the public has shown that it is a lot smarter than I've given them credit for.