Parents are finding out that teachers are not villains

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While Americans remain largely critical of the US education system as a whole, parents, especially, are increasingly pleased with their neighborhood schools and more displeased with the rising use of standardized, multiple choice tests to evaluate, and potentially punish, teachers, a new Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll that was released last week suggests.

The poll findings show mixed sentiments among Americans toward public education. For one, the public remains largely unaware the move by states, including New York State, to adopt the Common Core standards that purport to promote depth over breadth of knowledge about various topics.

Since the program has never been field-tested in America and since proponents of the program cannot name even one foreign nation that has successfully used the program, it is hard to say whether or not it will work. Empiric data seems to show just the opposite — that national standards do no better that state standards in terms of educational outcomes.

Even as opposition to the new standards rises – in April, the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution rejecting them – just slightly more than one-third of Americans have ever heard of the Common Core, and only a fraction of those can describe the voluntary new standard in detail the poll shows.

While the details of education policy may fly over the radar of most Americans, the poll does reflect at least a partial consensus that runs counter to long-running public school criticism that has made teachers, and teacher unions, the scapegoats of failing schools.

In the most dramatic shift in the annual poll, a majority of Americans – 58 percent – oppose using student standardized test results to explicitly score teacher performance. Last year, 52 percent in the same poll said they support using those kinds of tests to evaluate teachers.

Teacher unions have long said that focusing on standardized tests to judge schools and teachers is a political gambit aimed at vilifying poorer, struggling schools to corral support – and resources – for schools in middle-class communities, a scheme known in the education world as “educate the best, forget about the rest.”

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