August 28, 2013
There is much to celebrate in the most recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll, which has measured Americans’ attitudes toward public schools for the past 45 years.
A large majority of respondents continue to give their local schools high marks for overall performance, and that evaluation increases in direct proportion to the closeness of the respondent to a school. The 71 percent of parents who graded their own children’s schools with an A or a B was the highest percentage the poll has ever recorded.
Overwhelmingly, Americans say they trust their teachers and principals, and nearly 90 percent of parents feel their children are safe on campus — also the highest percentage ever.
As the longest-running survey of American attitudes toward education, the annual PDK/Gallup Poll provides extensive and trusted data about changes in Americans’ perceptions as well as their current views.
As in prior years, respondents in 2013 said the biggest challenge facing public schools is a lack of financial support. Responding to an open-ended question, not a fixed list of choices, Americans gave this answer more than four times as often as any other.
Other results included:
This year’s poll, conducted less than six months after the horrific fatal shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., also asked numerous questions about safety and security. Among those findings were:
When asked a series of questions on what schools should teach, respondents said it was most important for students to learn critical-thinking and communication skills. After that, the public said students should learn how to set meaningful goals, and skills to increase collaboration, creativity, well-being, and character. This list of the public’s priorities matches up well with the new Common Core State Standards curriculum that California schools are adopting this year.
The report contains other interesting findings, but in summary they show clearly that Americans value their public schools and want them to be supported financially. It is particularly encouraging to see that parents give their children’s schools high marks for both educational effectiveness and safety, and that the public also favors our schools’ new academic emphasis on critical thinking and other skills that will better prepare our students for college and careers in the 21st century.