50 Years of American Voices


Lowell C. Rose and Alec M. Gallup

The 31st annual PDK/Gallup Poll
of the Public’s Attitudes
Toward the Public Schools

“The public's concern for discipline and for the quality of the teaching staff are threads that run throughout this year's poll.

“In a question designed to determine factors that might be used in selecting a school, four factors exceed all others in importance. The most important factor, chosen by 98% of the respondents, is the quality of the teaching staff. Following are student discipline and curriculum, each at 89%, and class size at 75%.

“A trend question in the poll offers the public the opportunity to identify the biggest problem faced by the schools in the community. Down through the years, the public has been consistent in this area. From 1969 to 1985, lack of discipline came up first in every poll but one. From that point forward, either drug abuse, lack of financial support, or lack of discipline has topped the list. This year, lack of discipline is identified as the top problem by 18% of the respondents.”

What was happening in American education?

July 1999: Boston Public Schools ends its busing plan under threat of court action by white opponents. Five years later, Boston Public Schools are 85% African-American and Hispanic.

September 1999: Thirty years of court-supervised desegregation ends in Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District. In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court approved busing in Charlotte as a route to desegregate the schools, the first time such a remedy had been applied.

September-October 1999: Government, business, and education leaders met for their third National Education Summit in Palisades, N.Y., and reaffirmed their interest in setting high standards for students, holding educators accountable, and improving the quality of teaching in U.S. schools.

1999 Teaching Gap 416118

1999: James Stigler and James Hiebert publish The Teaching Gap, which says the U.S. lags behind other nations because of the quality of its teaching.

1999: GLSEN conducts its first National School Climate Survey to assess the experience of LGBT youth with school-based harassment and victimization, how frequently they heard homophobic language at their schools and their overall comfort in school.

What else was happening in the United States?

Feb. 12, 1999: The U.S. Senate acquits President Bill Clinton in the Lewinsky scandal.

March 29, 1999: Dow closes above 10,000 for the first time.

April 20, 1999: Two high school students murder 13 people and wound 20 others before killing themselves during a shooting spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. At the time, it is the worst high school shooting in U.S. history.

1999 Ap 99042802148 Use

An unidentified woman looks at 15 crosses on a hill above Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., on April 28, 1999, in remembrance of the 15 people who died during a shooting rampage at the school. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Share “1999”:


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?