Americans overwhelmingly think there is too much emphasis on standardized testing in public schools and that test scores are not the best way to judge schools, teachers or students, according to a national poll.
The results released Sunday come from the 47th annual PDK/Gallup poll of attitudes toward public schools, the longest-running survey of Americans' views on public education.
The survey showed that the public rejects school accountability built on standardized tests, which has been federal policy through No Child Left Behind, the signature education initiative of President George W. Bush.
Signed into law in 2002, No Child mandated annual tests in reading and math and required schools to raise scores every year or face penalties. Through its own policies and grant programs, the Obama administration has further emphasized testing by requiring states to evaluate teachers based on test scores.
"You see a solid public rejection of (testing) as a primary policy," said Linda Darling Hammond, a professor at Stanford University's Graduate School of Education, after reviewing the poll.
A majority of respondents — 64 percent — said too much emphasis has been placed on testing, and a majority also said the best way to measure the success of a school is not through tests but by whether students are engaged and feel hopeful about the future.
"Too many kids in too many schools are bored," said Joshua Starr, a former superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland who is now chief executive of PDK International, a network of education professionals. "Parents maybe see that and they want their kids to be engaged in schools."
Many Americans also said they think students should be judged by multiple measures, including student work, written teacher observations and grades. And they overwhelmingly think teacher quality is the best way to improve education, followed by high academic standards and effective principals.
Although the national debate over public education has become polarized during the past several years, with bitter divisions inside and between political parties, the PDK/Gallup poll showed a surprising level of agreement in the public at large.
A majority of respondents — regardless of political affiliation — opposed the notion of evaluating teachers based in part on test scores, an idea heavily promoted by the Obama administration and fought by teachers unions.
When it comes to the role of the federal government in public schools, a majority of respondents said Washington should play no role in holding schools accountable, paying for schools or deciding the amount of testing. Seven out of 10 respondents said they wanted state and local districts to have those responsibilities.