What Do Polls Tell Us?
The thing about quotes on the internet is that you cannot confirm their validity.
I mentioned last week that a Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll indicates that Americans are proud of their local schools but less proud of our education system in general. How proud of our local schools are we? Well, a recent Harris poll finds that if parents had to grade their local school, 35% would give it an A, 44% would give it a B, 15% would give it a C, 5% would give it a D, and only 1% would give it an F. Almost 80% of parents K-12 would give their child’s school an A or a B!
How do we solve the conundrum in which a solid majority of parents thinks their local schools are great but also believes that American education in general isn’t anything to write home about? I’m confused. Local pride is one thing, but don’t parents in one school district ever talk to parents in another? Don’t they read the local papers? Don’t they attend interscholastic sports events? What we have here is the unusual situation of the whole being WAY less than the sum of its parts!
And even though our fellow citizens take a dim view of K-12 education in general, two-thirds of them (again according to a recent Harris poll) say that public colleges, both community and four-year schools, do an excellent or very good job of educating their students. You have to wonder how the colleges manage to do so well with graduates of such a lackluster educational system.
I suspect the chronic reports of how poorly our students do when compared with students from other countries impacts people’s perceptions of American education in general, even though it’s often hard to pin down exactly what we’re comparing. And, of course, someone in the media is always talking about the latest “crisis” in education and the need for change and/or reform. It occurs to me that we have never fully understood nor accepted the idea that education, by its very nature, is always a work in progress. We are always searching for better ways to teach, better programs for kids, better training for teachers and administrators. It’s the way education works.
I do not believe that during my years in education we simply ricocheted from one crisis to another, like a silver ball in a pinball machine. Instead, we tried, we failed, we adjusted, we improved. So I tend to take most polls with a grain of salt.
But still, they’re interesting. Did you know that nearly half of parents say their kids watch more TV and play more video games in the summer? Didn’t you think they would spend more time outside playing? Oh yeah – and with 32 ice cream flavors to choose from at your local Baskin-Robbins, polls show that people’s favorite flavor is chocolate, followed by vanilla.