50 Years of American Voices


Lowell C. Rose and Alec M. Gallup

The 33rd Annual PDK/Gallup Poll
of the Public’s Attitudes
Toward the Public Schools

“For the first time in the 33-year history of these polls, a majority of respondents assign either an A or a B to the schools in their communities. And, as has been the case in all past polls, the closer people are to the public schools, the better they like them. The percentage of A’s and B’s rises from 51% for all respondents to 62% for public school parents and to 68% when these same parents are asked to grade the school their oldest child attends.

“These high marks may explain why, when asked to choose between improving schools by reforming the existing system or by finding an alternative to that system, 72% of Americans choose reforming the existing system. This percentage, while up from 59% in the 2000 poll, is consistent with the 1999 and 1997 findings, in which 71% preferred to reform the existing system.”

What was happening in American education?

Dec. 18, 2001: Congress passes No Child Left Behind, which increases the federal role in K-12 education. NCLB requires states to develop academic standards and promotes accountability through testing and setting state expectations for student learning.

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President George W. Bush signs into law a sweeping federal education bill, No Child Left Behind, at Hamilton High School in Hamilton, Ohio, on Jan. 8, 2002. From left are Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Education Secretary Rod Paige, Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, woman is unidentified. Children with Bush are Tez Taylor, left, and Cecilia Pallcio, right. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

2001: President George W. Bush announces that the report of the National Reading Panel would be the basis of federal literacy policy and was used prominently to craft Reading First, a $5-billion federal reading initiative that is part of the No Child Left Behind legislation.

2001: Florida becomes the first state to offer private school vouchers to students with disabilities.

What else was happening in the United States?

Jan. 20, 2001: George W. Bush is inaugurated as the 43rd president of the United States.

Sept. 11, 2001: Nearly 3,000 people are killed in the 9/11 suicide attacks by terrorists aboard four planes at the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and in rural Shanksville, Penn.

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A New York firefighter reacts to the devastation left behind after the World Trade Center is attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. (Getty Images)

Oct. 7, 2001: The United States invades Afghanistan.

Oct. 23, 2001: Apple introduces the iPod.

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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?