Monday, September 04, 2006

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.


Blogger rory said...

Dennis, thanks for pointing out a great source of information. I would disagree with you on several points... of course. Quickly off the top of my head...

1. While there may be some hard right wingers trying to undercut/belittle public schools, I think that the large majority of critics are honestly advocating for improvements in the current system. I am a huge proponent of public schools, in fact I think that public universities and colleges should be free to all who qualify, but I do advocate reform of the current system.

2. Many people would disagree with your comment about the public being smarter than you thought. It could easily be interpreted, and probably will be, as showing that the public is more ignorant than you would think. Remember, a large percentage of people still think that Iraq was behind 911.

9/04/2006 5:27 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Rory, you disagree with me? I'm shocked!! Don't worry, though. I'll try to get over it.

Seriously, I can agree with much of what you said. Public education can and should get better. I'll admit that I tend to get defensive, and it's important that people like me get past that and be open to ideas that can help. For example, E. D. Hirsch is critical of the way we do things, but I think his ideas have some merit. And how can I not be willing to listen to a parent who gets stuck with selling all those darned candy bars?

I also agree with you about the public being stupid when it comes to foreign policy. Bush may have had his screw-ups, but I'd still rather have the president making foreign policy than to base it on what the polls are saying. The framers of the Constitution definitely knew what they were doing on that one.

9/04/2006 6:29 PM  
Blogger elementaryhistoryteacher said...

The poll is encouraging, however, I'm wary of polls. They are kind of like professional baseball games.....same teams, different day and the outcome is totally different. You never know how it could go....

9/04/2006 6:57 PM  
Blogger KDeRosa said...

Before you get all giddy, you might want to check out this commentary on the skewed PDK poll.

9/06/2006 9:45 AM  
Blogger KDeRosa said...

For example, E. D. Hirsch is critical of the way we do things, but I think his ideas have some merit.

His ideas have alot of merit, although he does get some of it wrong.

Just today I began a long post on this very topic. Check it out.

if you really want to save the public education system, reforms like this at the k-8 level will be needed so that the bottom 2/3 of the population starts to learn.

9/06/2006 10:22 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Don't worry, KDeRosa. I know that you are always lurking there somewhere, and that's enough to keep me from actually becoming "giddy."

9/06/2006 5:48 PM  

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