ETS Poll: Public Supports NCLB Reauthorization

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Princeton, New Jersey (June 19, 2007) —

This press release is also available in Spanish.

With a summer of congressional debate ahead over No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, a major public opinion poll from ETS shows that parents, teachers and school administrators strongly support reauthorization of the law. They also favor greater flexibility in assisting students and schools struggling to meet high standards and call for increased funding for schools failing to make adequate progress.

ETS's seventh annual Americans Speak survey, "Standards, Accountability and Flexibility: Americans Speak on No Child Left Behind Reauthorization," was conducted by bipartisan pollsters Peter Hart, Democrat, and David Winston, Republican. Previous Americans Speak surveys have tracked educational issues facing America, including a limited number of questions on the public's impressions of NCLB since the bill first became law. This year's study is devoted entirely to the law.

"The survey clearly shows that despite a lack of knowledge among the American public and strong misgivings of teachers and administrators, there is strong support for reauthorization of No Child Left Behind," says Kurt Landgraf, President and CEO of ETS. "The lack of understanding among parents of school-age children and the general public initially led to slightly more negative than positive feelings toward NCLB, but once the law was explained, a majority then favored its continuation. This shows that NCLB supporters need to increase awareness among the public about the law's provisions and benefits."

Results show that fewer than half (45%) of the public believes they know a great deal or fair amount about NCLB. Before hearing a description of the law, the public was slightly more negative (43%) than positive (41%) toward it. Once NCLB was defined, support rose to 56 percent favorable and 39 percent unfavorable. And, despite the strongly negative views of NCLB among educators, only 25 percent of teachers and 22 percent of public school administrators say Congress should not reauthorize the law.

The survey also shows that 59 percent of adults and K-12 parents and 60 percent of Hispanics think NCLB should be more uniform by replacing 50 sets of state standards and tests with one set of national standards and tests, so that students taking 8th grade math are learning the same standards, regardless of their state of residence. A majority of public school teachers and administrators believe we should keep the system as it is because it lets each state define its own academic goals.

Other findings in the survey showed that:

  • 57% of the public believe that states should not be able to opt out of the law's provisions if they expect to receive federal funding.
  • 77% of teachers think English language learners should be given more time to learn the language before pushing them to learn the core curriculum at grade level.
  • Teachers and the public disagree as to whether English language learners' test scores should be left out of NCLB calculations for up to two years. 66% of teachers would opt to leave them out, whereas only 32% of the public would opt to leave them out. Only 28% of Spanish speakers would leave them out.
  • Lack of parental involvement is viewed as the biggest problem facing our nation's schools by teachers, administrators, the public and even parents of school-age children. Lack of discipline in the classroom is the second biggest problem, according to parents and the public. Teachers and administrators say lack of funding is the second biggest problem.

"Another message that comes across loud and clear is that Americans believe there should be more flexibility in fixing underperforming schools,” says poll co-author Peter Hart. “They overwhelmingly reject blanket solutions for schools that perform poorly on state tests and want solutions tailored to individual schools. And, 57 percent believe that funds should be increased to hire more teachers, reduce class size and improve conditions."

Co-author David Winston adds, "The public also agrees that America's future success in the global economy rests upon improving our public education system so that America's youth can compete with students around the world."

A majority (59%) of the public worry that if changes are not made to the education system, America's global competitiveness and the strength of our economy will be negatively impacted within 10 years.

"No Child Left Behind may not be the only measure needed to put American education on the right path, but its reauthorization is desired by most of the policymakers, the public, parents, teachers and school administrators," concludes Landgraf.

Additional details on the study can be found at www.ets.org/americans_speak

From May 4 to 15, 2007, Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc., and The Winston Group conducted a national survey among 1,526 adults, including 626 parents of K-12 students, 101 public school administrators (superintendents, school board members, principals and vice principals) and 251 public school teachers. At the 95% confidence level, the data's margin of error is ±3.1 percentage points among all adults, and larger among the subsamples of parents of K-12 students (±3.9), public school administrators (±9.7), public school teachers (±6.2) and California residents (±4.5).

About ETS

ETS is a nonprofit institution with the mission to advance quality and equity in education by providing fair and valid assessments, research and related services for all people worldwide. In serving individuals, educational institutions and government agencies around the world, ETS customizes solutions to meet the need for teacher professional development products and services, classroom and end-of-course assessments, and research-based teaching and learning tools. Founded in 1947, ETS today develops, administers and scores more than 50 million tests annually, in more than 180 countries, at over 9,000 locations worldwide.