The Phi Delta Kappa honors organization, in conjunction with Gallup, recently surveyed "the public" to get their opinion about the No Child Left Behind Act. The poll itself may be found here; a press release summary is presented here.
So, what did "the public" have to say? The fine print at the end reminds us that this poll was composed of only 1011 adults who were chosen as a random-digit residential telephone sample - this allegedly avoids "listedness" bias, but doesn't avoid bias based on who owns telephones, or who is around to answer the telephone in the house. Random numbers were stratified by geographical region, and the person in the house with the most recent birthday was chosen to answer the poll. Calls also varied by time of day and day of week.
They've put some safeguards in place here, but readers should keep in mind that this is still a small sample. What's more, 65% of the sample had no children enrolled in school, and while some of those are people whose kids have graduated, I believe this could certainly introduce error by oversampling people who have no reason to pay attention to the specifics of or the politics surrounding the NCLB Act, nor would they be as likely to be aware of the quality of their local schools.
Anyway, on to the results, with my comments:
"Forty percent say they know very little about NCLB" - not surprising, given that 65% of the sample have no kids enrolled in school.
"Public school parents consider themselves just as uninformed as others" - these folks comprised only 32% of the sample, or just over 300 people.
"Sixty-six percent of the public says judging a schools performance using a single standardized test will cause teachers to "teach to the test." Sixty percent say that is a bad thing." That's 60% of the 66% who think that teachers will be forced to teach to the test. So, 667 adults thought they'd be teaching to the test, and 400 believe this is a bad thing. Another way to put this would have been to say that only 40% of the sample believes that standardized tests force teachers to "teach to the test" in a bad way.
It's also interesting that, while 66% did find the use of a single test for judging school quality to be fair (and I was under the impression that states use other methods for judging school quality as well), 83% believe the tests should be expanded to include subjects other than reading and math. While I believe those two are the most important (hard to appreciate history and science if you can't read), couldn't this number be used to show that those polled support the use of testing? Or that their opposition to the use of a single score was only because of the narrow focus of the test, not because of the test itself?
"...the public attributes the [black-white score] gap to lack of parent involvement (90 percent), home life and upbringing (87 percent), lack of student interest (80 percent), and community environment (66 percent). Only 16 percent attribute it to the quality of schooling received." Interesting. You often hear this from teachers' unions, and some school teachers, who claim that the quality of the school is not as important as the child's background (and this is often given as a reason for why schools fail minority kids from poor homes).
However, another way to look at this is the way that E.D. Hirsch describes it in The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them. In that book, he notes that children from privileged background have a high probability of doing well regardless of their school quality, because what they fail to learn in school, they can often learn at home. But disadvantaged kids are often entirely dependent on the school for their education, and the worse the home situation, the better the school needs to be in order to fairly educate the youngsters in it.
Thus, the score gap is not just related to parental involvement and upbringing, but also to the fact that those with the least amount of schooling at home are also least likely to receive adequate education in school. In those cases, school quality can be the most important factor in closing the gap. A failing K-12 system disproportionately affects the disadvantaged youth, and to blame their home environments for their poor test scores is to miss the whole story.
There's more in the poll, much more; let me know what you find interesting.Posted by kswygert at August 20, 2003 10:32 AM