"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Condition of Public Education

The newest PDK/Gallup Poll on the condition of public education is out. There are always a few suprises. On the other hand, some things don't change year after year.

Local Schools.

Americans regularly give the schools in their local community higher ratings that the schools nationwide and parents with children in the schools give them even higher ratings.
Differences between how Americans view their local schools versus the nation’s schools suggests that Americans like the schools they know but are much less positive about public education in general. This finding is often viewed from two very different perspectives. Some compare it to similar findings in other situations. For example, while Americans give Congress low grades, they give their local congressperson much higher grades. Researchers then write these two questions off as being consistent with Americans’ fickleness toward their public and private institutions. On the other hand, these responses greatly concern some educators and policy makers. They believe it affirms that Americans are content with schools as they currently exist, the status quo, and that too many American will not embrace important reform efforts.
A majority of 82% of the respondents to the poll do NOT see their local schools as failing giving them a grade of A, B or C. 49% scored their local schools as an A or a B. In other words, the school we know best we score higher than the schools we don't know. We're very negative about the quality of schools nation wide. But if such a high percentage of people are giving their own schools average to above average ratings where are all the schools that are doing so poorly?

Even more telling...more than 3/4 of the people who have children attending public schools give their school  a grade of A or B. Parents of children in school are the ones who know best how the school is working. They see the progress their children are making. They are the ones who are in contact with our schools on a daily or weekly basis.
Seventy-seven percent of America’s parents gave the school their oldest child attends either an “A” or “B.” These are the highest grades parents have assigned to their oldest child’s school since the poll began. During the past 25 years, parent grades assigned to schools have continued to improve.
Alfie Kohn: No to Threats and Bribes

What about No Child Left Behind? the reliance on standardized testing? the competition for scarce federal resources? Alfie Kohn addresses these issues on p.18 of the report (pages are numbered from the current issue of the Kappan).
So: People say no to threatening (to close schools) and to bribing (kids with money), which together define the carrot-and-stick approach favored by economists and behaviorists, who run the show. If contemporary “school reform” is a stool, that’s one of its three legs — gone. The second leg is standardized testing, and the 2008 PDK/Gallup poll found that most people regard test scores as less meaningful than “examples of student work” and “teachers’ observations.”

The last leg? Well, imagine this question on next year’s poll: If we had to choose between doing what’s best for children to help them become good learners and good people, or educating them in a way that primarily benefits their future employers, which would you favor?

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