Poll: Americans favor Obama’s school reforms

By a two-to-one margin, Americans continue to support this one element (annual testing of students in grades three through eight) of NCLB; yet, even though those polled believe in testing, support for NCLB “continues to decline, as almost one out of two Americans view it unfavorably, and only one out of four has a favorable opinion,” states the report.

Also, only one out of four Americans believes NCLB has helped schools in his or her community.

“I think people believe in testing but not in NCLB, because people believe in the overall purpose of NCLB–to help schools through government intervention and accountability–but not how this purpose was carried out,” said William J. Bushaw, executive director of PDK, during a press call. “I think these negative views will have a severe impact on the reauthorization of NCLB next year.”

John Wilson, executive director of the National Education Association (NEA), said during the call that he believes NCLB has a low acceptance rate because of “the NCLB funding that never happened.”

One type of school system that most Americans can agree liking is charter schools. During the last five years, American’s approval of charter schools has increased by 15 percent, says the poll, and almost two out of three Americans now say they favor the idea of charter schools.

However, this result should be examined closely, researchers say. Even though most Americans say they favor charter schools, many still don’t have a good idea of what characterizes a charter school.

For example, those polled were “evenly split on whether charter schools are, in fact, public schools (they are), or if they can teach religion (they can’t). The majority continue to believe that charter schools can charge tuition (they can’t), and almost three out of four Americans believe charter schools can select the students who attend (they can’t),” says the report.

“The misunderstanding starts with the characterization of charter schools as ‘free’ from state or federal regulations,” explains Margaret Trimer-Hartley, superintendent of the University Prep Science and Math District in Detroit. “The continuing confusion about charter schools stems largely from political divisions and years of hostile partisan rhetoric over what role the nontraditional schools should play in education reform.”

“I think even though many don’t exactly know what a charter is, they know it’s different and held to a different accountability,” said Bushaw during the press call. “It signals that Americans are ready for a change.”