Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Our schools are great; yours stink

Gallup has released results from its annual poll of Americans' perceptions of their public schools. In the poll, respondents are asked to assign a grade--A, B, C, D or F--to the schools. Overall, the vast majority of respondents give the nation's public schools a grade of C (53 percent) or worse (26 percent). The results are consistent with a trend of increasingly negative views regarding schools.

An interesting result, however, appears when people are asked about their local schools--the ones that they fund and that their children attend.

Only 27 percent of respondents give their local schools grades of C or worse; 71 percent give them A's or B's. Views regarding local schools also trend in the opposite direction from views regarding schools as a whole. According to respondents, their local schools have become better over time.

The disparity is even more pronounced when parents are asked about the schools their children attend. For this group, 77 percent rate their children's schools as good or better, again with a generally increasing trend.

Results like these are fairly common. People despise Congress but love their own representatives. Other drivers are awful, but few people rate themselves that way.

Objective results indicate that the local view is closer to being accurate. Long-term trends in reading and math scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress have shown improvements for most age groups and especially for the youngest groups. Gains have been particularly pronounced for students from minority groups and students with less-educated parents.

Maybe it's time to cut the public schools a little bit of a break and stop villianizing educators. According to the people who seem to know best (local citizens and parents) and according to objective standards, "our" schools are both good and improving.