One of my favorite elements of eSchool NewsOnline is the weekly interactive poll. Since my first exposure to research methods in college, I have been fascinated with the process of measuring attitudes and opinion. While our Weekly Poll isn’t technically “scientific,” I still believe it gives a realistic peek into what educators think about the various issues affecting educational technology today.

I have to admit that I’m quite surprised by some of the poll results I’ve seen. While the results themselves obviously hold a lot of interest, I find it perhaps more telling to see just which questions have prompted the most response among educators. Since January, there have been five polls whose results have really stood out.

Not surprisingly, our most popular poll was the one we posted in response to President Bush’s State of the Union address in late January. During that speech, Bush announced his “American Competitiveness Initiative,” where he vowed to increase the nation’s investment in the physical sciences, math, and teacher training. On Feb. 2, we asked: “What’s your reaction to the president’s American Competitiveness Initiative plan?” A landslide 72 percent of readers responded: “Just more empty rhetoric,” compared with 19 percent who felt that “Bush will get it done” and 9 percent who took a “wait and see” approach. Given the proximity of the poll to the president’s speech, and his plummeting support in the general polls, I wasn’t surprised to see it garner the response it did.

However, while I expected the State of the Union poll to be huge, curiosity compelled me to see which other polls were among the most popular so far in 2006. I was pretty surprised when I saw the second-most popular poll to this point: our soda poll. On May 3, in response to former President Bill Clinton’s initiative to rid schools of soda machines and marketing to kids, we asked: “Should soda be banned in schools?” And the answers poured in. Eighty percent of readers answered “Yes,” versus 17 percent who dissented. The rest were undecided. As a recovering Mountain Dew addict, I am aware of the importance of this issue. That said, I find it surprising that this poll drew a bigger response than all but our State of the Union poll.

When we asked, “Should schools favor reading and math over other subjects?” in response to measures taken to prepare students for standardized testing in the shadow of NCLB, I expected some interesting results, and perhaps a definitive winner. I did not expect to see such an even distribution of responses. “No” squeaked by “Yes,” 50 percent to 49 percent. Another poll asked: “Should schools monitor student blogs and profiles?” Only 18 percent of readers unequivocally answered “No.” Sixty percent answered “Yes,” while the reminder felt that it depends on circumstances. Finally, on July 19, we asked: “Do you agree with the GOP’s voucher plan?” Twenty-five percent answered in the affirmative, 68 percent were against it, and the remainder either had no opinion or were undecided.

Given that these topics address serious issues that can be controversial to educators–namely privacy, NCLB, and social networking–I find it both interesting and affirming that, despite disagreements on some things, we pretty much agree on soda.

I would ask that you continue to look to eSchool NewsOnline every Wednesday for a new weekly opinion poll. The responses have proved interesting and informative so far, and that trend should continue. Also, if you’d like to provide further comments on a poll question you have responded to–or if you have any ideas for a stimulating poll topic of your own–please feel free to shoot me an eMail message. I’d love to hear what you have to say. New Educator’s Resource Centers Data Informed Instruction Sponsored by Excelsior Software, this collection of stories and reports from the eSN Online archives is intended to help educators implement data-driven instruction, improve teacher efficiency, and transform their schools into more effective institutions.

SIF: Software Streamliner The online companion to a Special Report on the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF) that ran in the July 2006 print edition of eSchool News, this resource center is packed with information about how school district leaders are using SIF to bring speed, efficiency, and economy to the software use in their schools.