Monday, September 18, 2017

Education Research Report: Confidence in U.S. Public Schools Rallies

Education Research Report: Confidence in U.S. Public Schools Rallies:

Confidence in U.S. Public Schools Rallies

Americans' confidence in the nation's public schools edged up in 2017. The 36% of U.S. adults who express "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in public schools is a six-percentage-point increase from 2016 and marks the highest confidence rating in eight years.

Graph 1

Gallup has measured Americans' confidence in public schools since 1986. Confidence hit its lowest point in 2014, when about one in four U.S. adults (26%) expressed confidence in the nation's public schools. This low was nearly half the high mark of 50% in 1987.

In the first three years that Gallup measured views of public schools, about half of Americans expressed confidence. But significant dips in 1989 and in 1991 suggested that confidence would not quickly return to the high levels initially measured. From 1995 through 2006, the confidence rating for public schools remained fairly stable, hovering near 40%. From 2007 to 2014, with the exception of a significant bump in 2009 -- the year that many states committed to the development of the Common Core State Standards -- and a smaller uptick in 2013, confidence declined incrementally.

The boost in public school confidence this year is part of an uptick in the average confidence rating (35%) across all institutions that Gallup measures. Public school confidence ranked second in positive year-over-year change among 15 institutions tested in the June survey. Eleven institutions received a confidence boost from 2016, largely attributable to rising confidence among Republicans, which might be ascribed to the election of President Donald Trump.

The upswing in confidence in public schools from 2016 to 2017 is evident among both Republicans (up nine points) and Democrats (up five points). The tendency for Democrats to be more confident than Republicans in public schools has been generally constant over the past nine years, and is evident this year, with 41% of Democrats and 30% of Republicans confident in public schools.

Graph 2

The 11-point spread between Democrats and Republicans is much smaller than the 23-point gap in partisan confidence in "colleges and universities" measured in a separate poll in August. The wider party gap in ratings of higher education appears to reflect Republicans' perception that a liberal political agenda is driving what is taught in colleges -- a perception that apparently has not spread to their views of public schools.

This year's bump in confidence in public schools parallels the increase in Americans' satisfaction with public school education as measured in Gallup's annual Work and Education survey, conducted in August. Nearly half of U.S. adults (47%) say they are "completely" or "somewhat" satisfied with the quality of education for K-12 students, up four percentage points from 2016 but still trailing the high mark for satisfaction (53%) that occurred in 2004.

Graph 3


While U.S. public schools have struggled to boost their national image in the past decade, there is a hint of progress. The six-point improvement in confidence in public schools from 2016 to 2017 matches the largest year-over-year positive change for schools in Gallup's trend.

Some recent education successes may be helping to nudge confidence in schools upward. The Every Student Succeeds Act, a bipartisan measure signed by President Barack Obama in December 2015, provides increased autonomy and flexibility for state and local education agencies to steer innovation and accountability measures -- and Gallup research suggests that Americans are more trusting of local than federal government. Additionally, the U.S. graduation rate is now at an all-time high of 83%, and the dropout rate is down.

Gallup research shows the nation's public school leaders are likewise optimistic about their school systems. A recent poll of U.S. superintendents shows a significant majority (85%) are excited about their district's future. However, there is clearly more work to be done to improve the quality of education and how it is perceived. Just 32% of these school leaders say they are excited about the future of U.S. education generally -- a percentage that aligns closely with the 36% of Americans expressing confidence in the nation's public schools.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Only democratic schools will save us - Salon

Only democratic schools will save us -

Only democratic schools will save us

“Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
—James Baldwin, from “I Am Not Your Negro”
These days it is hard to be as optimistic about the future of public education generally, let alone the possibility of significantly scaling up democratic schooling, as I had at one time thought we might be ready to do. In the mid-1980s, for instance, a more heady time for progressive educators, my colleagues and I started the Center for Collaborative Education (CCE) as an advocacy and support organization that would facilitate the expansion of our network of small, democratic schools across New York City. Later, in my proposal to scale up that work even further as part of the 1993 Annenberg Challenge, we wrote, “The goal . . . is to bring present city school reform efforts to scale, creating a critical mass of small, effective schools, committed to equity, that serve the full range of New York City’s children so that the principles on which such schools are based are no longer considered ‘alternative’ but rather ‘good practice’”
Today, while there are still schools that have held true to their early innovations, managing to dodge mandates that would undermine their ability to meet the actual needs of their constituents, we are far from making such schools the norm. Instead, many of the democratic school projects that I was involved in over the past half century are in various states of peril or have already faded from existence: with New York City’s District 4, once internationally recognized as a model of what was possible for a public school district to become, its garden of small, interesting schools has now all but dried up; two of the four Central Park East schools have closed and only one remains somewhat democratically governed; the original CPE 1—though it had a good thirty-year run—has been struggling for the past decade to hold on to its progressive practices and democratic spirit. What’s more, conservative analysts have panned the Annenberg Challenge as a failure for its diffuse funding plan; the Coalition of Essential Schools held its last conference and closed its offices in 2016; and the very institution of public education is under attack as never before.
Now, a grossly unqualified billionaire president has appointed equally inexperienced, self-interested “one-percent-ers” to essentially dissolve the very public institutions they are entrusted to lead. True to this mission, secretary of education Betsy DeVos’s 2018 education budget proposes to cut $10.6 billion from public education, eliminating twenty-two programs, including teacher training, after-school programming, and student-loan forgiveness programs (fittingly, she has appointed the CEO of a student loan company to head the student loan agency). In addition, the secretary’s budget would spend $1.4 billion to fund school choice, including a national voucher program. While the rhetoric claims this is intended to “empower” poor families, research on existing voucher programs shows that such claims are based on free market ideology rather than on honest interest in improving the odds for those of us outside of the top 1 percent.
Selling out our public schools in this manner effectively shreds the social contract upon which our democracy depends. As someone who has spent a lifetime struggling against the top-down and impersonal tendencies of our public bureaucracies, I am the first to acknowledge that there is much room for improvement! Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that the guiding principles underlying our public institutions—imperfect though they may be—are based on the assumption that we all share interest in a common good. The guiding principles of the free market are profit and individual self-interest.
Some proponents of the charter and, now, voucher movements truly believe that Only democratic schools will save us -

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