National poll shows strong support for ideas that help Minnesota students and families

When there is deep division in this country about some issues, a new national poll released last week shows strong, and sometimes surprising support for several key ideas in public education.  Young people and families in Minnesota gain from the way these ideas are being applied here.

The results come from the 43rd annual collaboration between Gallup, one of the nation’s most respected polling companies, and Phi Delta Kappa, a national education organization.  When I look at this year’s PDK/Gallup poll results, I see three trends emerging: Respect, empowerment, and choice.

First, as a former urban public school teacher, married to a 33-year veteran of urban public schools, and parent of an urban public school teacher, I was gratified to see that two-thirds or more of Americans respect the profession since they would encourage “the brightest person you know” and “a child of yours” to become a public school teacher. While some educators feel a lack of respect, this poll found considerable support for the profession.

Minnesota families benefit from this because for some teaching openings, there are literally hundreds of people applying.  Unlike some states that have a difficult time attracting educators, Minnesota has a surplus in some teaching areas.  In fact, some states recruit teachers from Minnesota.

Second, that esteem is demonstrated in the willingness of 72% of poll respondents to empower educators by “giv(ing) teachers flexibility to teach in ways they think best,” rather than require them “to follow a prescribed curriculum.” I hope creative, committed, hardworking teachers find these responses encouraging.

Third, just as most poll respondents want teachers to be free to select materials and strategies, 74% support allowing families “to choose which public schools in the community the students attend, regardless of where they live.” Seventy percent also favor “the idea of charter public schools.” Poll trends show support growing for public school choice, including charters.

Minnesota families benefit from a variety of “dual credit” options. These allow hardworking high school students to earn college credit while still in high school. Students can take these classes either in high school or on college campuses. Students can simultaneously save literally thousands of dollars in college costs, and by challenging themselves, be well prepared for college.

In addition to options provided by local districts, families can use open enrollment in other districts one of the more than 140 charter public schools in the state, including some “on-line” schools.

The poll has just over 40 questions.

Yes, there are strong and deep divisions on some issues in this country.  But this poll shows there is very strong agreement on a number of key ideas in education. These responses are consistent with empowering educators to decide how they teach. Some educators want more respect, but oppose allowing families to choose among district and charter public schools. Strong majorities of the public wisely support both educator and family public school choice.

Reader Responses

Thanks so much for this one — it’s an important “upper” for dedicated teachers. I love your summary of the PDK poll. –Karen Seashore

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My perusal may have been too short, but I think that you were basing your comment about the poll and giving teacher’s flexibility came from this question:

Table 9. Should education policies require teachers to follow a prescribed curriculum so all students can learn the same content, or should education policies give teachers flexibility to teach in ways they think best?

The question seem to me to be a false choice. Obviously not every child can learn the same content because some children are smarter than others – so if I read that statement I would personally say no. But no person should say that teachers should have complete flexibility to teach what and how they teach because not all teachers have the same quality. So I would also say no to this question also.On this point, think of the great and enduring educational institutions you know – do they not all share a strong sense of corporate mission with a firm idea of what type of student they want to produce and what these students will learn? I mean to say that at the center of these institutions is a strong curriculum and teachers are judged on how well they understand and embody that curriculum. Put yet another way, a truly great teacher (of which there are not many) will reach any student without any particular guidence. But for the less than great teachers (of which there are very many), their faults will be covered if they cover truly great material.

I really believe that the focus on giving teachers flexibility is a serious error. — Philip Jemielita

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Joe, the more I see of the way policy is developing, the more I see it coming to the concept of teachers being “free to teach”. In E|E we are — Joe Graba is, particularly — trying to explain to folks that the defect at the heart of the system is the separation of authority (held at the district level) from accountability (enforced on the schools and teachers). Authority and accountability have to be brought together, and since there is no way really to enforce accountability on the superintendent or the board (“We don’t teach the kids!!”) the solution has to be to move the authority over the ‘how’ of learning into the school; place it with the teachers. — Ted Kolderie, Education Evolving