According to The 41st Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, 75% of parents gave their local school an A or a B. But when it came to the nation’s schools as a whole, less than 20% gave a similar high grade.
Why is there such a difference in perception between “your school” and “the nation’s schools”? Gerald W. Bracey, a longtime Kappan columnist, explains the reason for the disconnect:
Americans never hear anything positive about the nation’s schools and haven’t since the years just before Sputnik in 1957, Bracey writes in a commentary in the September 2009 issue of Phi Delta Kappan. Negative information flows almost daily from media, politicians, and ideologues. During the 2008 presidential campaign, a $50 million project, Ed in 08, inundated Americans with negativity through its web site, TV ads, and YouTube clips.
Our leaders don’t help matters much. “The fact is that we are not just in an economic crisis; we are in an educational crisis,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan in February. He’s said it repeatedly.
The President repeats the mantra. “In 8th-grade math, we’ve fallen to ninth place,” Obama said in March. That’s factually true, but those students were still ahead of 36 other nations. More important, when the test was first given in 1995, American 8th graders were in 28th place. They’ve been busy falling up.
On the other hand, parents use other sources and resources for information about their local schools: teachers, administrators, friends, neighbors, newsletters, PTAs, and their kids themselves; and they’re in a much better position to observe what’s actually happening in American schools.
Bracey expands this idea in his new book, Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality (Educational Research Service, 2009). Here is the description of the book:
Are America‘s schools broken? Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality seeks to address misconceptions about America‘s schools by taking on the credo ‘what can be measured matters.’ To the contrary, Dr. Bracey makes a persuasive case that much of what matters cannot be assessed on a multiple choice test. The challenge for educators is to deal effectively with an incomplete accountability system—while creating a broader understanding of successful schools and teachers. School leaders must work to define, maintain, and increase essential skills that may not be measured in today’s accountability plans.
Is Dr. Bracey saying the glass is half full? Marvelous! It’s refreshing to see educators giving the public an objective looking glass from which to view America’s school system.