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NCLB Outrages

After Four Years, the Public Judges the No Child Left Behind Act to be 'In Need of Improvement'

Stephen Krashen Comments:

According to the poll, only 36% of the public thinks there is too much emphasis on testing (25% think there is not enough, 33% think the current emphasis is just right). But 67% think that the current emphasis on tests leads to teaching to the test, and 75% think this is a bad thing. One interpretation of these results is that about 30% of the respondents didnít understand the questions.

TABLE 37. According to the NCLB Act, the state- wide tests of student performance will be devoted to English and math only. Do you think a test covering only English and math would provide a fair picture of whether a public school is or is not in need of improvement, or should the test be based on other subjects also?

18% answered yes, 81% no, only 1 percent didnít know. The testing companies will love this. I predict this will be used as evidence that the public wants more subjects to be tested. Of course, nearly all critics would agree that a test score on a statewide exam in math and English does not provide a fair picture of whether a school needs improvement, but would not agree that the answer is more tests.

To: National Desk, Education Reporter

Contact: Delaine McCullough of Phi Delta Kappa International, 812-339-1156 ext. 2254 or 812-340-1803 (cell), dmccullough@pdkintl.org

BLOOMINGTON, Ind., Aug. 22 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Nearly six in 10 Americans who are familiar with the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act believe it has had no effect on our schools or has actually harmed them, according to a nationwide poll released today. "This finding is significant and disturbing given that the nation's schools are spending virtually all of their available money and resources on an effort to meet the demands of this law," remarks Lowell Rose, co-author along with Alec Gallup of the 38th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.

In probing the public's opinions of NCLB, the PDK/Gallup poll finds that there is widespread support for the law's goals -- closing the achievement gap between African American and Latino students and their white peers and improving educational outcomes for all students -- but broad disagreement with its specific strategies.

When asked whether testing students in only English and math, as currently required by NCLB, can give a fair picture of a school, 81 percent of the public say no. And 78 percent are worried that the law's focus on these two subjects will mean less emphasis on other subjects. The poll finds that two-thirds of those surveyed oppose measuring school success by the percentage of students passing a single statewide test, while 81 percent prefer measuring the improvement that students make during the year.

In contrast to the public's pessimistic view of NCLB, the poll finds strong support for the public schools. When asked where we should focus efforts to improve education, 71 percent of those surveyed say that they prefer improvement to come through the existing public school system, rather than through an alternative system. The public is consistent in this view -- 60 percent oppose the use of public funds for children to attend private schools, 80 percent prefer that students who attend schools that fail to meet NCLB performance requirements receive help in their own schools rather than offers to transfer to another school, and 69 percent oppose contracting out to private companies the operation of local school systems.

In addition to this vote of confidence for the existing school system, the poll finds that there is strong public support for local schools -- 49 percent of those surveyed give the schools in their community A's or B's -- and that level of support increases to 56 percent when respondents are public school parents. "The fact that the public's support of its local schools is unaffected by the criticism directed at public schools in general should send a clear message to those interested in improving our schools that change proposals should be built on the assumption that the people like the schools they have," remarks Dr. Rose. "Proposals based on the assumption that the schools are failing are unlikely to gain the public support needed to make them effective."

The PDK/Gallup poll also sought out the public's views on the challenges the nation's schools face as well as on potential solutions. When asked about those challenges, such as the achievement gap and high dropout rates among poor and minority students, 77 percent of Americans blame societal factors and only 16 percent fault the performance of the schools. Perhaps in recognition of the societal origin of these problems, 81 percent of those surveyed believe that preschool programs for at-risk children have the potential to improve their long-term school performance. More important, two of three Americans indicate their willingness to pay higher taxes to fund these programs.

"The views expressed in this year's PDK/Gallup poll should serve as a wake-up call to our nation's policy makers as they begin the process of reauthorizing NCLB in 2007," cautions William Bushaw, executive director of PDK International, an association of education professionals that has been advocating for high quality education for all since 1906. "The public rejects the punitive approach found in NCLB, favors a broad curriculum, prefers more appropriate measures of school performance than a single high-stakes test, and supports efforts targeted at helping our most vulnerable students."


— New Release
Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll


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