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Chuck Carney
Media Relations and Communications

Last modified: Friday, August 28, 2009

School of Education faculty find national poll reveals public desire for quality, need for info

Annual poll of public attitudes toward public schools released

August 28, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The 2009 annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, released Wednesday, found support for President Barack Obama's education plans, weariness for the "No Child Left Behind Act," and support as well as confusion regarding charter schools, according to experts in the Indiana University School of Education.

Student Teachers

Indiana University student Ashley Smith is pictured above while conducting her student teaching requirements earlier this year at the Stockton Specialty School in Chicago. The annual PDK/Gallup poll of public attitudes on public education was released Wednesday (Aug. 26).

Additionally, the public continues to believe schools are performing poorly nationally, but say their own local schools perform better than most. There is also apparently little support for relaxing teacher certification requirements to rush more teachers into the classroom for the "STEM" subjects—science, technology, engineering and math.

Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) in conjunction with Gallup surveyed a national sample of 1,003 Americans in June. The global association of education professionals has conducted the annual poll since 1969. More poll data is available at

Below are comments from the IU School of Education faculty, along with additional findings from faculty research pertinent to the survey findings:

Signe Kastberg, associate dean for academic affairs and associate professor of mathematics education at the IU School of Education at IUPUI said poll results regarding filling the gap for STEM discipline teachers reinforces a desire for quality instruction. The PDK poll reported "only three out of 10 Americans approve relaxing certification requirements to allow more teachers to teach these technical subjects."

"All families and communities want a greater number of well-prepared STEM educators where preparation is signified by certification," Kastberg said. "Teacher certification in STEM disciplines is a standard of excellence achieved when a student completes a curriculum designed by faculty experts in schools of education in collaboration with colleagues in schools of science and engineering. Americans' reaction to relaxing certification requirements suggests that the rigor and intellectual challenge involved in teacher education programs that produce certified teachers is valued."

Kastberg may be reached at or 317-274-6829.

Diana Lambdin, the Martha Lea and Bill Armstrong Chair in Teacher Education and professor of mathematics education, is on the board of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). Another finding from the PDK poll is that a vast majority favor increasing scholarship opportunities for teachers who agree to enter the STEM disciplines. The survey found 90 percent favor such a solution to easing a shortage of these teachers in local schools.

"We are very pleased at IU Bloomington to have competed successfully for funding from the National Science Foundation for prestigious Noyce scholarships, which support mathematics majors in becoming math teachers," Lambdin said. "Over the past three years we have been able to support a number of undergraduate math majors and career changers in their teacher education studies, and -- in return -- these highly qualified individuals are now teaching in high need districts in Indiana and several other states. Through their education studies, prospective teachers learn to prepare motivating lessons, to develop informative classroom assessments, and to adapt instruction for the varied needs of their students. They discover that -- for effective teaching -- knowing the mathematics is certainly necessary, but not sufficient."

Lambdin may be reached at or 812-856-8149.

Don Warren, School of Education dean emeritus and faculty in Education Leadership and Policy Studies, said the seemingly contradictory findings regarding public opinion of school performance may reveal the public could be better informed. Most Americans say education is not as good today as when they were in school, although parents polled said education is better today. The poll found less than 20 percent, when asked to assign a letter grade to the nation's schools, gave them an A or B. However, more than 50 percent gave an A or B to schools in their community, equaling the highest score in the survey's history. Nearly 75 percent assigned an A or B to the school attended by their oldest child, the highest ever recorded in the PDK survey.

"It is important to remember that polls such as this one tell us more about the people being questioned than about the schools," Warren said. "They hold up a mirror before we the people. Sometimes the responses are far from encouraging. Other evidence suggests that those surveyed who are satisfied with their local schools probably should be less than happy. Likewise, the negative judgments about schools nationally tell us nothing useful about the condition of those institutions. The PDK writers seem well aware of these limitations."

Warren may be reached at or 812-856-8379.

The national PDK poll mirrors some findings by the annual CEEP Public Opinion Survey on K-12 Education in Indiana. As with the national sample, Indiana residents indicated in the most recent survey, conducted late in 2008, that their local schools performed better than the schools in the state overall. Fifty-four percent of Hoosiers indicated public schools are excellent or good, up from 50 percent in 2007. Respondents viewed local schools more favorably, with 63 percent indicating their schools are excellent or good. A total of 70 percent of Hoosiers rated teachers as excellent or good in 2008, compared to 62 percent in 2007.

The entire report is available at

The national poll finding that Americans are confused about charter schools is reflected in a recent study by CEEP conducted for the Indiana General Assembly. More than half the respondents to the PDK poll incorrectly indicated that the statement "A charter school is a public school" was false. Likewise, 46 percent incorrectly responded that they thought charter schools are free to teach religion and 57 percent said the statement "charter schools charge tuition" was true.

The "Study of the Effectiveness and Efficiency of Charter Schools in Indiana" revealed that stakeholders across the state have many misunderstandings about how Indiana's charters operate and what state law requires. The report's authors found that nearly all respondents revealed some incorrect understanding of Indiana charter schools.

The study's executive summary is available at and the full report at

To speak with faculty about the report, please contact Chuck Carney, director of communications and media relations at the IU School of Education, at 812-856-8027 or