How Well Do You Know Your Public Schools?
Results from the 2012 Phi Delta Kappa-Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools were released earlier this month and they provided some interesting points for reflection.
The first question in the poll required participants to identify the largest problem facing public schools today. The question was open-ended. Ten years ago, some of the most common answers were fighting, gang violence and drugs. In 2012, the most common response was a lack of funding. Thirty-five percent of all participants and 43 percent of public school parents reported lack of financial support as the No. 1 challenge facing our schools today. Our recent struggle with the loss of resources to support education is certainly not a new theme, but it is striking that we have reached the point where the general public recognizes the severity of this issue.
Results also revealed that the percentage of people who would assign American education a “D” or “F” has grown from 22 to 30 percent over the past 20 years. In contrast, when asked to evaluate schools in their own community, 48 percent of people polled would assign these schools an “A” or a “B.” And among public school parents, 77 percent reported that they would assign an “A” or “B” to the school their oldest child attends.
This trend tells me that people still believe in public education and that the more we know about particular public schools, the more we like them. When people have children who have had positive experiences and know teachers and principals who are doing a good job, they support the schools in their neighborhoods and communities. The problem arises when they are asked to rate public schools in general. At this point, it appears some people stop thinking about their personal experiences and start listening to the “public schools are broken” rhetoric that we have heard so much over the past few years. This message is not true and it is hurting our schools, our students and our state.
There were some brighter spots among these results, however. Seventy-one percent of people reported that they have trust and confidence in teachers. Again, a connection can be made between personal experience and positive opinions since 80 percent of the people polled also said they knew a public school teacher personally. The results show that our teachers continue to rise to the challenge and meet student needs, despite the negative messages of blame and failure that have surrounded so many of them recently.
In addition, a large portion of the poll participants also reported that they believed that the Common Core State Standards will improve the quality of education and make the nation more competitive globally. A significant percentage of participants also agreed that we must close the achievement gap and that we can do this without lowering standards. The fact that the public supports our teachers, our curriculum and our efforts to close the gap is promising news. To read the full results of the poll, visit http://www.pdkintl.org/poll/index.htm
So as we begin another school year, I would encourage you to stop for a moment and consider your own views on public education. Do you base your beliefs on what you have heard, or instead what you have observed while visiting and volunteering in a public school? If you have spent time in a school or with a teacher, you know that there are great things happening in North Carolina’s classrooms. Our graduation rate is at an all-time high and teaching and learning are becoming more innovative with each passing day. Whether you have a student in school or not, I hope that you will get involved with your local public schools this year. There are groundbreaking changes on the horizon for public education, but we cannot continue to make great progress without your support. I hope you will choose to join us and be a part of this exciting time for our schools and students.