Experience Outweighs Rhetoric
Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll Shows Folks Rank Their Local Schools Higher
by Gerald Bracey
It’s a constant in the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup polls: Respondents say their local schools are OK, but the nation’s
schools are average to awful.
The reasons for this disconnect
are simple: Americans never
hear anything positive about
the nation’s schools and haven’t
since the years just before
Sputnik in 1957. Think A
Nation at Risk.
Parents use other
sources and resources for information
about their local
and their kids themselves; and they’re in
a much better position to observe
what’s actually happening in American
are losing faith in
their local public
People who wax positive
about public schools are so rare
that the June 1996 School
Administrator put pictures of all
six of us on its cover as “The
Contrarians.” Negative information flows almost daily from
media, politicians, and ideologues. During the 2008
presidential campaign, a $50
FACT: Seventy-four percent of
parents give a grade
of “A” or “B” to the
school their oldest
million project, Ed in 08,
inundated Americans with
negativity through its Web site,
TV ads, and You Tube 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
2009. He’s said it repeatedly.
The president repeats the
mantra. “In eighth-grade math,
we’ve fallen to ninth place,”
Obama said in March 2009.
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 eighth-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.H
Gerald W. Bracey is a longtime
Kappan columnist and author of
Education Hell: Rhetoric vs.
Reality (Educational Research