PDK poll ferrets out the facts

Bill Ferriter, who blogs here on the TLN website as The Tempered Radical, is the only practicing teacher among a half dozen prominent education figures whose commentary is featured in the new PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.

Bill’s short commentary is primarily a response to the PDK poll’s finding that fewer than 2 of 10 Americans believe the No Child Left Behind legislation should be continued without significant change.

He writes in part that: “Our nation’s embrace of standardized testing has forced imagination from my classroom. In an effort to remain ‘competitive,’ I’ve turned away from many of the student-centric learning experiences necessary for preparing children for tomorrow.” (Page 13)

As regular readers of Bill’s blog, we know that when he speaks of remaining competitive, he refers to his “standings” on his school’s standardized test score reports, which have become a de facto ranking of teacher performance in his and many other schools.

The former N.C. regional TOY’s observations provide an interesting counterpoint to the remarks of Chester “Checker” Finn, a prominent proponent of (as he says in his own PDK poll sidebar) “national academic standards, national teacher testing, differentiated pay, and both charter schools and vouchers.” Their differences seem to have more to do with their vision of teaching as a profession than with the particulars of NCLB or student access to a richly varied curriculum (which they both favor).

The new PDK poll provides plenty of other food for thought and discussion among teacher leaders. A few highlights:

Presidential Candidates — Americans view Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as much more supportive of public schools than Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Assessment — In a change from nine years ago, Americans believe written observations by teachers, as opposed to scores on standardized tests, are a superior way to document student academic progress.

Teacher Pay — Almost three of four Americans believe teachers should be paid higher salaries as an incentive to teach in schools identified as ‘in need of improvement.’

Federal Funding — Lack of funding for schools tops the list of “biggest problems facing schools” for the sixth year in a row. Americans support an increased use of federal funds to maintain local public schools.

International Comparisons — Americans like the schools in their local community, but they perceive schools in Europe and Asia as superior, and they worry that our students will not be able to compete.

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