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Standardisto Attack on the PDK/Gallup Poll on NCLB

Ohanian Comment: Here's a Standardisto critique of the PDK/Gallup Poll. Of course they are all wet. If you disagree with them, there's an e-mail address at the bottom.

Last week Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup released the 35th annual Polls of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.[1] The poll concludes that the public does not support No Child Left Behind (NCLB). “While the public sees improved student achievement as an important goal, it rejects the strategies used in NCLB.” This conclusion appears to be comically disingenuous and can only be met by what legal scholar Charles Black called the sovereign prerogative of philosophers: laughter.

The questions are leading and they do so in an information vacuum. There is no overview of the law’s hows or whys, such as annual yearly progress (AYP) and the state’s role in that, and this is fatal to its anti-NCLB conclusion.

A quick review makes the point clear. The NCLB section begins by asking how much people know about the law. Seventy-six percent of telephone respondents said they know nothing about the law, and only 6 percent knew a “great deal.”

The subsequent questions targeting the law’s general strategy build on this ignorance. The telephone survey, for example, asks if a single test provides enough information for the NCLB school category “in need of improvement.” There is no mention of the AYP process. Sixty-six responded as most reasonable people would: “no.” Thirty-two percent (a surprisingly high number) felt that this was fair. Most intriguing, two percent could not even formulate a yes or no opinion but were kind enough to stay on the phone to finish the survey.

Question 15 creates a false dichotomy. It asks if NCLB’s emphasis on a single test will encourage teachers to teach-to-the-test rather than teaching the subject. The reasonable response to this false choice is: “yes,” and 66 percent provided it. A suspicious 30 percent defied the logical conclusion or sensed something was awry and responded: “no.” The percent of “don’t know,” those in a daydream but kind enough to remain on the phone, jumped to four percent.

After a series of troubled questions the report concludes that NCLB requires an overhaul. “Those desiring to see NCLB’s bright promise realized would be wise to hear and heed the public’s message.” The public’s message? The poll’s only clear NCLB message is that near 80% of the respondents haven’t a clue about the law. It is comedy to suggest that this is a basis for substantive changes to the most significant federal education law since 1965.

To be clear, this critique of the PDK/Gallup poll does not claim that NCLB is without troubles. It has many troubles. Nor does this critique suggest that the other sections of the poll are without merit. The NCLB conclusions, however, are suspect and should provoke only the sovereign prerogative of philosophers: laughter.

comments encouraged: info@thedoylereport.com

— David A DeSchryver
Political Polls and Laughter
The Doyle Report


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