PDK Poll: PARENTS LIKE THEIR LOCAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Last month, the PDK/Gallup poll of the public’s attitudes towards the public schools was released. The findings were consistent with previous years: Americans support their local public schools.
Public schools get their highest grades from those who know them best: public school parents.
…Americans made clear in last year’s PDK poll that they would rather see a school stay open and improve than start from scratch…
More than 70% of public school parents gave their children’s schools high marks. 84% of Americans don’t want their public schools closed. They would prefer to spend resources improving them instead of closing them.
The largest problem, according to the poll, is lack of funding.
Since 1969, the poll’s first question has been about the biggest problems facing the local public schools. As has been the case since 2002, the most common answers referred to lack of funding, cited by 22% this year. But that’s down from an average of 34% from 2009 to 2014, in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
Americans, it seems, are happy with their public schools. They don’t want them closed and replaced by unregulated charter schools. They don’t need vouchers. They want to keep and improve their local schools.
CORPORATE REFORM STRIKES BACK WITH DEBUNKED ASSERTIONS
You wouldn’t have learned anything about the PDK poll if you watched the
corporate propaganda tool TV show, “XQ Super School Live,” on all four networks last week. The focus was on how public schools (all of them, apparently) are not keeping up with the times and “failing”.
Perhaps the media’s constant bashing of public schools, this show as an example, is one of the reasons the PDK poll showed that people think the nation’s schools are failing – even though their own neighborhood schools are graded higher. The fact that parents like their local public schools was ignored on “XQ Super School Live.”
“XQ Super School Live” began with the usual debunked assertions about American public schools. According to them, our high schools are “failing” because they
- don’t graduate as many students as other countries
- are “31st in math”
- are “20th in language skills”
- are “19th in science”
There was no discussion of the fact that American public schools accept everyone and support the largest percentage of students in poverty in the developed world. When sorted by poverty rate American students perform as well or better than most students in the world. The sheer numbers of students living in poverty in the U.S. (the second most in the developed world) accounts for our lower test score average. See The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools.
Throughout the program, there was no disclaimer which explained that some of the schools highlighted in the show have selective admissions…wihch could mean some lower performing students are excluded. In addition, the schools highlighted are all the recipients of huge ($10 million) grants (XQ Super Schools). What could your neighborhood school do with $10 million?
There was no discussion of schools whose students were poisoned with lead by the mismanagement and neglect of the state, and then left without proper educational resources.
There was no discussion of the many American schools with halls, stairwells, classrooms, and bathrooms that look like this:
The implication of the program was that American schools are old and inadequate…that pedagogy is unchanged since the industrial revolution…that our young people are stuck in a system that hasn’t changed for 100 years. The new, cool, innovativeness of the “Super Schools” was emphasized by the singing and dancing of clean, well-fed, well-clothed, motivated
professional actors and entertainers children.
XQ’s FALSE ASSUMPTIONS ARE NOT THE REAL WORLD OF AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOLS
Most public high schools – the ones without the $10 million grant from Steve Jobs widow, Laurene Powell Jobs – are filled with teachers and students who are struggling to do their best, often under difficult conditions. The assumption that there is no innovation or no modernization in today’s high schools is false. The assumption that the “rules” in schools are holding them back (read: nasty teacher union contracts), or that the construct and form of schools are “written in stone,” is false. There are innovative public schools in America and many have one thing in common; adequate (or better) funding and support from the community at large.
Ask yourself, “Where are the struggling schools in America?” Invariably, the answer to that question is “They are in struggling, high-poverty communities.”
American public schools in wealthy areas produce high achieving students who can compete with any other students in the world. Why? Because the schools are well-resourced. The students come to school with their basic needs met; adequate food, health care, and safety. The teachers are supported and their contributions are acknowledged.
I’m sure that the families and students who attend the schools that Laurene Powell Jobs is funding appreciate her contributions. But the vast majority of students in the United States attend schools without a wealthy benefactor. Many of those students go to schools where innovations are occurring, because despite what the stars on XQ Super Schools TV program claimed, schools have changed significantly in the last 100 years. Too many of America’s students, however, are in schools which are underfunded and under-resourced. Instead of providing a few schools with $10 million, we need to fully fund all America’s public schools. For all our children.
- We, as a society, need to commit to funding the lives of all our children. They and their families need health care, food, clothing, shelter, and jobs with a living wage.
- Public schools need teachers who are well-trained and well paid, not college graduates with five weeks of training or subject area professionals who know nothing about child development or pedagogy.
- Public schools should have well staffed and well maintained educational facilities including appropriately staffed and resourced libraries.
- Public schools should offer students classes and opportunities in the arts and physical education.
- Public schools should provide wraparound services – nurses, social workers, counselors – so students who need help can get it. (See The Schools Chicago Students Deserve)
Schools are a reflection of society. As long as we live in a society based on inequity, we will have schools which struggle to succeed in their mission.
OTHER REACTIONS TO XQ Super School Live.
The message couldn’t have been more obvious: high school has been standing still for too long. However, that is demonstrably false. The American high school has been a battleground for intellectual and social issues for at least 65 years… let me begin to count the ways high schools have changed, and changed, and sometimes reverted to form…
…One minute into the broadcast, the message was clear, network television does not support America’s public high schools or its teachers.
…To hear XQ tell it, there are absolutely no innovative classrooms or teachers in any public high schools.
…each “Super School” profiled in the show. All of these schools have one particular non-traditional school policy in common. They all have some element of a selective admissions process…
The thinking that if “only we can find the right school design model then all kids will have a great education” disregards the fundamental problems that do harm public education: devastating funding inequities that disadvantage the poorest of the country’s schools; curriculum deficits; issues facing teachers, including training, retention, lack of diversity, low pay and lack of authority in their own classrooms; and issues facing students, including poverty, trauma, poor health, unstable family life and learning disabilities.
THE STATUS QUO
I’ll end with a quote from Steven Singer. The status quo for the last four decades has been test and punish. So, when the “XQ Super School” group says we need to rethink high school, Singer agrees!
Rethink high school?
Sure! Let’s do that! Let’s rethink inequitably funding it. Let’s rethink high stakes standardized testing. Let’s rethink Common Core, stealing local control, teacher autonomy and a host of the kinds of top down bull crap XQ tried obscure while selling an issue of Tiger Beat.