PDK, We Have a Problem

It is that time of year again, time for the annual PDK/Gallup Poll on America’s thoughts about public education in our great nation.  And once again, the American people have demonstrated a clear schizophrenia when it comes to our classrooms.

When it comes to grading the schools attended by the surveyees’ oldest child, 79 percent of schools received a grade of A or B.  But for our nation as a whole, we only give 17 percent of our schools an A or B.
Seventy one percent of those surveyed have “trust and confidence in the men and women who are teaching children in the public schools,” yet less than one in five believe our schools are above average.  (So we trust the teachers, but don’t have any confidence in the outcomes, I suppose.)
Of those surveyed, 76 percent said we should actively recruit high-achieving students to consider teaching as a profession, but 70 percent of those surveyed said the ability to teach is a natural talent, with just 28 percent believing it can be developed in college.
The full PDK/Gallup survey can be found here, with USA Today’s write-up of the results here.  Among some of the other headscratchers:
* Fewer folks believe school districts have a harder time recruiting good teachers today (52%) than did in 2003 (61%)
* Nearly half of those surveyed (47%) believe unionization hurts the quality of public education, yet 52% side with the unions on collective bargaining issues
* People believe that “principal evaluations” are the most important criteria for determining if a teacher should keep his or her job (with student test scores coming a close second), but there is no explanation whatsoever of what a principal should be evaluating
* 74 percent of those surveyed want increased investment in school technology, but 59 percent oppose using technology to help kids learn at home (while reducing the number of hours needed in high school)
* Despite the emphasis on teacher quality, half of those surveyed would rather hire a less effective teacher than allow students to utilize online learning
Buried deep in the survey (and nowhere to be found in the PDK press release on the report), 74 percent favor public school choice, the highest level in more than two decades, and 70 percent support charter schools, the highest total ever in the PDK survey’s history.  
And the methodology?  Of the more than 1,000 surveyed, 62 percent of those surveyed did not have kids in school, while 29 percent were public school parents.  Sixty seven percent were over the age of 40.  Sixty two percent had a college education.
What do we learn from all of this?  On the whole, it seems folks are pretty happy with their local schools and their local teachers.  But they don’t know why.  They are frustrated with the quality of public education across the nation, but the give President Obama high marks for his education work.  We want technology, but we don’t want kids to use it outside of a 19th century classroom.  We like charters.  And we are basing all of this on a majority of surveyees that aren’t actually customers in this game.
At least one thing can make this local school board chairman feel good this morning.  According to PDK/Gallup, our opinion of school boards seems to be at an all-time low.

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