Thursday, December 16, 2010

Survey puts educational blame where it belongs

"Blaming teachers for low test scores, poor graduation rates and the other ills of American schools has been popular lately, but a new survey wags a finger closer to home."

That's the opening line of an Associated Press story covering the AP-Stanford Poll on Education, and it has some results that teachers may find surprising.

Not the one that says 68 percent of Americans believe parents are more to blame for educational failure than teachers, their unions or school boards - most teachers already know that. A majority of those surveyed also said that the education in their local public schools is either excellent or good - most teachers already know that, as well.

And while many believe that the U.S. is falling behind other countries educationally, "a majority of parents see improvement in the system since they were in school: 55 percent believe their children are getting a better education than they did, and three-quarters rate the quality of education at their child's school as excellent or good. Most say their child's school is doing a good job preparing students for college, the work force and life as an adult."

Again, most teachers probably know that education is really improving, mainly because research is better and more targeted, and serious efforts are underway to improve both professional development for those in the classroom, and teacher education for those planning to enter the profession.

The result that may surprise teachers is in the ideological breakdown of respondents. Those who self-identify as conservative are much more likely to blame parents for educational shortfalls than teachers.

Why is that surprising? Because among the political classes, it's been the conservatives who hammer hardest at so-called "bad teachers," and it is legislative right-wingers who have been most likely to introduce bills seen by teachers as punitive.

Although that has shifted somewhat in the very recent past. Propagandized documentaries like Waiting for Superman and The Lottery, which lean heavily on teachers and unions as villains for poor performance in impoverished urban school districts, were financed and produced by liberals.

To see the full results of the AP-Stanford poll, click here.

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