At a time when most U.S. public schools are implementing the Common Core State Standards, a new report finds that Americans don’t know what the Common Core State Standards are, and that they say more testing is not going to help students.
These are just some of the findings of the 45th annual PDK/Gallup Poll on the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools—the longest-running survey of American attitudes toward education, providing an extensive repository of data.
Overall, survey participants give their local schools an “A” or “B” rating, express confidence in teachers and principals, and support the growth of charter schools and home schooling.
However, the public is divided on issues ranging from teacher evaluations to school security.
(Next page: Clueless on Common Core State Standards and thumbs-down to assessments)
According to the poll, despite the widespread adoption of Common Core State Standards, 62 percent said they had never heard of the new standards. Of the 38 percent who said they had heard of them, many reported thinking [incorrectly] that the federal government is forcing states to adopt them and that the standards cover every academic subject.
Only 41 percent of those surveyed said they thought the Common Core State Standards would make American schools more competitive globally—a goal of the standards initiative.
The common standards movement also goes hand-in-hand with new assessments, yet the public says that the increased testing is hurting, not helping, education. Only 22 percent of those polled said increased testing had helped the performance of their local schools, compared to 28 percent in 2007.
This year, 36 percent of those questioned said the testing was hurting school performance; 41 percent said it had made no difference.
“Americans are realizing that educating students is not about teaching to the test or evaluating teachers on student performance,” said Von Sheppard, assistant superintendent of Boulder Valley School District, Colo., for the report. “It’s about how teachers relate to their students, motivate them, and create a pathway for them to unlock their potential.”
The poll also found that the public is “increasingly cautious” about including standardized test results for teacher evaluation. This year, 58 percent of the respondents said they oppose using standardized test results for teacher evaluations—compared to 47 percent last year.
“Americans’ mistrust of standardized tests and their lack of confidence and understanding around new education standards is one of the most surprising developments we’ve found in years,” said William Bushaw, executive director of PDK International and co-director of the PDK/Gallop Poll in a statement. “The 2013 poll shows deep confusion around the nation’s most significant education policies and poses serious communication challenges for education leaders.”
“Americans support certain idea of goals, but don’t understand the programs or initiatives being pursued to improve student achievement,” he continued. “Our local and national leaders must do a better job of explaining what they’re doing and why.”
Sixty-three percent also said they oppose the idea of releasing information to the media on how the students of individual teachers perform on standardized tests. Fifty-two percent now say teachers should have the right to strike, as well—up from 40 percent in 1980.
(Next page: School safety concerns)
Another hot topic issues for the American public is school safety: The poll finds that 88 percent of parents feel their child is safe when he/she is in school—the highest percentage ever on the Poll. In contrast, only 66 percent say they feel their child is safe when he/she is playing outside in their neighborhood.
59 percent of those polled said they’d like to expand mental services over adding security guards in schools and a large number of respondents would rather embrace building screening procedures rather than reliance on armed guards.
In fact, some of the highest “strongly disagree” percentages on the survey came in response to questions about arming teachers and administrators, with 90 percent total disagreeing with arming teachers and administrators.
“Eighty percent of respondents are more concerned about violent actions by students than intruders,” said Doris Terry Williams, executive director of The Rural School and Community Trust, D.C., in the report. “That concern is corroborated by a recent Rural Trust study indicating that students were far more likely to be the perpetrators of acts of school violence.”
Williams explained that though this data may be shocking, now more than ever schools should focus on mental health services for “greater effort building developmentally appropriate relationships and climates that validate the worth and contributions of all students…more must be done to make the case that our children are not our enemies, but the victims of misguided politics.”
For more information on these results, plus other findings on home schooling, charter schools, subjects taught in school, engaging parents, the President’s education priorities, and educating students of illegal immigrants, view the report: http://pdkintl.org/noindex/2013_PDKGallup.pdf
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