Poll Shows Support for Ideas That Help Minnesota Families

In the annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll results, Joe Nathan sees three trends emerge among in public attitudes to education: respect, empowerment and choice,

Joe Nathan

Joe Nathan

While 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 respected 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 “giving teachers flexibility to teach in ways they think best,” rather than requiring 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 hard-working 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 thousands of dollars in college costs, and by challenging themselves, be well prepared for college. For more information, see http://www.centerforschoolchange.org/high-school-college-enrollment/index.html.

In addition to options provided by local districts, families can use open enrollment in other districts or one of the more than 140 charter public schools in the state. This includes some “online” schools.

The poll has just over 40 questions. It’s online at http://www.pdkintl.org.

Yes, there are strong, deep divisions on some issues in this country. But this poll shows 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.

Joe Nathan, a former public school teacher and administrator, directs the Center for School Change at Macalester. He welcomes comments and can be reached at jnathan@macalester.edu.

Comments


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August 19th, 2011

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