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Obama's Popularity Can Shift Opinions on School Reforms, Study Says

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A popular president's strong stances on education issues can shift the public perception of that issue, according to a new poll released today by Education Next magazine and the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University.

Knowing President Obama's opinion on the issues gave a boost to those who said they supported the goal, from a 11 percentage-point increase for charter schools and a 13 percentage-point increase for merit pay.

Researchers say the so-called "Obama effect" was strongest on those who shared the president's Democratic political persuasion. Positive research findings also had an impact on those who said they would support a policy goal.

To see the effect in work, one need only chart the rise and fall of the popularity of the No Child Left Behind Act with that of the president who championed it, George W. Bush. The main federal K-12 education law, conceived with strong bipartisan support, was wildly popular with parents when it was implemented in 2002 at the height of Bush's post- 9/11 popularity.

But a poll released last week by PDK and Gallup shows the law, like the former president, is highly unpopular among many Americans, even though most Americans favor testing students in math and reading in grades 3 to 8.

That poll showed similar high support for merit pay for teachers, increasing charter schools and developing common assessments, all priorities of the Obama Administration.

Obama's education secretary, Arne Duncan, has put his support to work, pushing states to change laws. (Duncan also has $5 billion in competitive grant funding he's dangling in front of states and school districts.)

How can states and districts use the President's popularity to advance otherwise unpopular or controversial plans locally? Could Michelle Rhee use Obama's support for merit pay to come to an agreement with the teacher's union in the District of Columbia?

1 Comment

To introduce merit pay would mean the bureaucrats would be assuming they can not only rationally and objectively measure the effects that all teachers have on all students per particular basis and account for every school's structural nuances.

These planners would also be claiming omniscience in regards to what "performance" should be in relation to all the competing needs and wants of every child, parent, teacher, business, higher ed establishment, etc etc, in existence or not yet come into being.

The socialist nature of schooling basically means that "performance" as set down by the planners will have only the state's arbitrary and socially disconnected standards. Socialist institutions are barred from economic rationality to the degree they are disconnected from the market.

The popularity of a political leader- even of Maobama- does not render this reality invalid.

Merit pay can only be a political move.

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