50 Years of American Voices


Lowell C. Rose, Alec M. Gallup, and Stanley M. Elam

The 29th annual PDK/Gallup Poll
of the Public’s Attitudes Toward
the Public Schools

“Place a computer in every classroom. Move persistent ‘troublemakers’ into alternative schools. Establish national standards for measuring the academic performance of the public schools. Let parents and students choose which public schools the students will attend. Group students in classes according to ability level. Establish a national curriculum. Use standardized national tests to measure the academic achievement of students. Provide health-care services in schools. These are all measures that the public believes would improve student achievement in the public schools.”

What was happening in American education?

Feb. 11, 1997: In a speech to the National Press Club, NEA president Bob Chase calls for a reinvention of the union he leads with a new emphasis on professionalism and collaboration.

Feb. 22, 1997: Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers and one of the most influential individuals in public education during the 20th century, dies.

June 4,1997: The Education for all Handicapped Children’s Act becomes the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. President Bill Clinton reauthorizes IDEA with several key amendments that emphasize providing all students with access to the same curriculum. Additionally, states are given the authority to expand the “developmental delay” definition from birth through five years of age to also include students between the ages of six and nine.

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Ellen Richardson, of Fairfax, Va., left, joins congressional leaders on Capitol Hill June 3, 1997, for the signing of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments. Seated from right are House Speaker Newt Gingrich, of Ga., and Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, of Miss., standing, applauds between them. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

1997: Congress forms the National Reading Panel, which is tasked with assessing the effectiveness of different ways to teach children to read.

1997: Arizona adopts the nation’s first statewide scholarship credit program. The program allowed individuals who donate to School Tuition Organizations (STOs) to take a dollar-for-dollar tax credit against their state income taxes, up to a maximum of $500 per taxpayer. STOs were required to use 90% of the donations received to award tuition scholarships that enabled low- and middle-income parents to send their children to private schools.

What else was happening in the United States?

Jan. 20, 1997: President Bill Clinton is inaugurated for his second term as president.

Oct. 4, 1997: Hundreds of thousands of men gather on the National Mall in Washington for the first national Promise Keepers rally of evangelical Christian men.

Oct. 25, 1997: Modeled on the Million Man March in 1995, hundreds of thousands of black women convened in Philadelphia for the Million Woman March.

Oct. 27, 1997: Stock markets around the world crash. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummets 7.18% or more than 500 points. For the first time, the New York Stock Exchange triggers the “circuit breaker” rule and stops trading. The market recovers the following day when one billion shares are traded in a single day for the first time ever.

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange after trading was halted Oct. 27, 1997, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Nadel)

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We welcome your conversation about the poll results and the other information we’ve assembled here. What did we forget? What do you remember about this year? How do you think the events of this year influenced the responses to our questions?