Amid the growing din of debate over the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) we seldom hear the public’s voice. Indeed people generally remain largely unaware of the policy details and their implications for schools.
Although polls have shown that parents and the public are generally supportive of current standards-based education reform efforts, such polls only provide part of the picture of what people think.
They rarely let people finish their sentences or express why they believe what they do. Moreover, polls and surveys don’t give people a chance to think deeply about the issues, deliberate them with their neighbors, and arrive at thoughtful opinions.
To create opportunities for real public dialogue on these issues, Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McRel) launched a national dialogue on standards-based education. In initial research findings from the dialogues the group found that people initially expressed opinions regarding standards that were very much in line with recent public opinion polls that have revealed popular support for standards, assessments, and accountability.
However, as people further discussed these issues, important nuances emerged:
- Tests are necessary, but accountability should be based on more than just test scores
- Accountability should make schools more responsive to parents and communities, not outside officials.
- Parents and students are a crucial, yet often marginalized, part of accountability systems.
- People’s key concerns about schools are mostly social issues not addressed by standards, tests, or accountability.
- Parents would like to be more involved in their schools, but often feel shut out of them.
From Connections, April 2004