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PDK/Gallup Poll Offers Glimpse into Americans Views of Public Education

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Seventy-one percent of Americans have "trust and confidence" in our country's public school teachers, 48 percent would give the public schools in their community an A or B, and three of four people in the country believe the Common Core State Standards will provide more consistency in the quality of education between school districts and states. These are just a few of the findings from the 44th Annual Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, which was released today.

The PDK/Gallup poll has been administered for decades to gauge the opinions of educators, parents, and legislators on the current state of U.S. public education. It always provides interesting insight into views about school funding, bullying, teacher performance, teacher pay, immigration, school improvement, standards, and overall confidence in our nation's schools. This year's poll data was collected from a national sample of 1,002 American adults during the month of May.

Here are a few other key findings that could make headlines across the country.

Balancing the federal budget is more important than improving the quality of education. Sixty percent of Americans believe balancing the federal budget is more important, even though they said funding is the biggest problem facing public schools.
Improving the nations urban schools is important. Ninety-seven percent of the public agreed that that it is very or somewhat important to improve the nation's urban schools, and almost two of three Americans (62 percent) said they would pay more taxes to provide funds to improve the quality of urban schools.
College and career readiness is a concern. Fewer than one in 10 people believe a high school dropout is ready for the world of work, while about one in five said high school graduates are prepared for the workplace. One-third responded that high school graduates are ready for college.
Schools should discipline children for bullying. Three of four Americans believe that bullying prevention should be part of a school's curriculum, and 58 percent believe schools should investigate and discipline students when bullying occurs outside of school, including over the Internet.
Americans view their local schools more favorably than the nation's schools as a whole. Consistent with recent years, almost half of Americans give the schools in their community a letter grade of A or B, while only 19 percent gave the nation's schools the same grade.
Parents want more control over failing schools. Seventy percent of Americans favor giving parents whose children attend a failing school the option to mount a petition drive requesting that the teachers and principals be removed.
The public is split in its support of school vouchers. Nearly half (44 percent) believe that we should allow students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense, up 10 percentage points from the 2011 poll results.

All of these findings impact talent managers, but some of the data provides important insight into changes that are occurring right now in districts across the country, specifically around teacher selection, preparation, and evaluation.

Teacher preparation and selection: Fifty-seven percent of respondents said that entrance requirements into college teacher preparation programs need to be more rigorous. And, if they were more rigorous, 67 percent felt that this would produce more effective teachers. Further, at least 75 percent of Americans believe entrance requirements for teachers should be the same or harder than entrance requirements for business, pre-law, pre-medicine, and engineering!
Teacher evaluation: Participants were asked, "In your opinion, what percentage of a teacher's evaluation should be based on how well his or her students perform on standardized tests -- less than one-third, between one-third and two-thirds, or more than two-thirds?" Responses were varied (see chart below).

PDK_Gallup_2012.png
It is important to note that in the overall total, 35 percent of respondents feel test scores should be counted for less than one-third of a teacher's evaluation, while 63 percent of Americans believe that one-third or more of a teacher's evaluation should be determined by student performance on standardized tests. Many state legislatures have or are moving in that direction with teacher evaluation policies. I also found it interesting that only 23 percent of respondents believe test scores should count for more than two-thirds of an educator's evaluation, signaling recognition that gathering multiple data points to measure an educator's performance is important.
How do these findings match your own beliefs? I know some who would agree with the results and others who wouldn't. But, one thing is for sure--the world of education is changing and having conversations around the big issues facing policymakers, education leaders, parents, and students is important. It will be interesting to see how opinions change in next year's poll.


For more information on human capital, performance management, or continuous improvement in education, you can follow Emily Douglas (@EmilyDouglasHC) on Twitter.

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