This is the official reaction of the National Education Association to the new PDK-Gallup poll.  The three key findings that the NEA highlighted are that the American public thinks there is too much testing; 41% of the public think that parents should have the right to opt their children out of standardized testing; and only 31% support vouchers that send public money to pay for private schooling.

WASHINGTON – The 47th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, which was released today, reinforced—yet again—what students and educators nationwide have been saying: there is too much emphasis on standardized testing.

“All students, regardless of their ZIP code, deserve a great public school education. But the high stakes obsession of test and punish has only served to widen the gap between the schools in the wealthiest districts and those in the poorest,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “We must reduce the emphasis on standardized tests that have corrupted the quality of the education children receive. The pressure placed on students and educators is enormous. We wantstandards to succeed and be challenged by teaching critical thinking and problem solving skills, as well as creativity.”

NEA has been instrumental in advocating for policies that do just that. As Congress is considering reauthorization of the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act), key aspects of NEA’s Opportunity Dashboard have been a part of the discussion. The Dashboard includes a menu of indicators of school quality and student-centered success, such as access to advanced coursework, school counselors or nurses, and fine arts and regular physical education. Our focus should be on ensuring access to those types of programs because they are much more likely to lead to student success than rote memorization and bubble tests.

Key findings of the 47th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools include:
• 64% say there is “too much emphasis on testing”
• 41% say parents should be able to opt their children out of standardized testing
o 57% of Blacks say parents should not be allowed to excuse their child
o Among Hispanics, that margin is 45%
o But among Whites, 41% said “no” while 44% said “yes”
• While 57% of public school parents give their local schools an “A” or “B” for performance, that drops to 19% when asked to rate public schools nationwide
• 95% of Americans rated “quality of the teachers” as very important for improving local public schools, putting it at the top of a list of five options
• Nearly all adults surveyed (84%) support mandatory vaccinations for students attending public schools
“NEA fully supports parents and supports our affiliates who take a stand against tests that serve no educational purpose,” said García. “But making it easier for parents to opt out is not the end game. The end game is designing a system where parents and educators don’t even consider opting out of assessments because they trust that assessments make sense, guide instruction, and help children advance in learning.”
The poll also showed that many Americans have come to accept school choice and charter schools as part of the education landscape. But that support declines when vouchers are introduced. Only 31% of Americans favor allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at the public’s expense.

“School vouchers divert essential resources from public schools to private and religious schools, while offering no real ‘choice’ for the overwhelming majority of students and their families— and particularly not for the parents of children with special needs, low test scores or behavioral problems,” said García.