Polls Show Public Supports Key FairTest Positions

K-12 Testing

Recent national surveys continue to demonstrate that high-stakes testing and the "No Child Left Behind Act" (NCLB) do not have public approval (see Examiner, Fall 2002, Fall 2001). Rather, the public increasingly supports FairTest's positions on key issues.


The Phi Delta Kappan annual survey released in October found that most Americans have strong concerns about NCLB's testing and accountability sanctions. As in other polls, a majority of respondents do not believe a single exam should be the basis for making high-stakes decisions about students or schools (see Examiner, Fall 2001, 2002). The public also does not support teaching to the test.


Two-thirds of Kappan poll respondents reported they knew little about NCLB. However, when questioned about issues that are central to NCLB, people's views run counter to the law's requirements. Among the findings:


o "Sixty-six percent believe a single test cannot provide a fair picture of whether a school is in need of improvement."
o "Only 15 percent believe testing on English and math alone can produce a fair picture of whether or not a school is in need of improvement. Eighty-three percent believe it cannot."
o "Only 26 percent believe it is possible to accurately judge a student's proficiency in English and math on the basis of a single test. Seventy-two percent believe it is not possible."
o "Eighty percent are concerned either a great deal or a fair amount that relying only on testing in English and math to judge a school will mean less emphasis on art, music, history, and other subjects."
o "Sixty-six percent believe the emphasis of NCLB on standardized testing will encourage teachers to teach to the tests, and 60 pecent believe this would be a bad thing."
This poll suggests a potential upsurge of opposition to NCLB as the law's consequences become clear. That opposition also could affect the use of high-stakes testing by states and districts.


A detailed analysis of many public opinion surveys conducted for Douglas Gould, a public communications firm, confirms the widespread distrust of high-stakes testing. Gould also prepared a report evaluating public views on education and recommending approaches toward school reform and overhauling No Child Left Behind.


Another report, by the marketing communications firm Banach, Banach and Cassidy, reviewed polls including more than 20,000 students, parents and educators, and concluded "The current emphasis on student testing is being increasingly questioned by parents." Parents are concerned about too much testing, that the testing does not have a good "payback," and it is improperly driving instruction. Teachers view NCLB as an unfunded and punitive mandate that will not improve education.


o All Kappan annual surveys: http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/kpollpdf.htm
o Gould's reports: http://www.douglasgould.com/pages/resources.htm#NoChildLeftBehind
o Banach: http://www.banach.com/; click on "current thinking."