50 Years of American Voices


Lowell C. Rose and Alec M. Gallup

The 35th annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools

“Relationships at the federal, state, and local levels with regard to K-12 education are increasingly complex, change is the mantra of the day, and money is short in almost every state. Attention is currently directed at efforts to improve student achievement, with special emphasis on those minorities and other groups that have traditionally been less successful in gaining the quality of education needed for future success. These differences in school success have come to be known as the ‘achievement gap,’ a gap that virtually everyone agrees must be closed. How this is to be done and the relative roles of the parties involved are, however, matters involving uncertainty and controversy.

“The authors believe the data support the following general conclusions:

  • The public has high regard for the public schools, wants needed improvement to come through those schools, and has little interest in seeking alternatives.
  • The public sees itself as uninformed on No Child Left Behind, with 69% saying they lack the information needed to say whether their impression of the act is favorable or unfavorable.
  • Greater familiarity with the law is unlikely to lead to greater public support.
  • The public is concerned about getting and keeping good teachers, thinks teacher salaries are too low, and is willing to see higher salaries paid to teachers teaching in more challenging situations.
  • The public believes that closing the achievement gap between white students and black and Hispanic students is important but blames the gap on factors unrelated to the quality of schooling.
  • The public is not convinced that narrowing the achievement gap requires spending more money on low-achieving students.
  • A majority of respondents oppose vouchers and would oppose having their state adopt them, despite the 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision stating that voucher plans do not violate the U.S. Constitution.”

What was happening in American education?

March 19, 2003: A New York Times reporter says he finds “nearly universal contempt” for No Child Left Behind.

March 26, 2003: More than 16,000 New York City students demanded transfers out of failing public schools under No Child Left Behind, which gives parents the right to request that their child be moved to a better-performing school. That number compares to 6,400 who requested such transfers the year before.

June 23, 2003: In Grutter v. Bollinger, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that race can be considered in admission decisions as long as quotas are not involved. The court says that a diverse study body is a benefit on a university campus.

October 2003: Across the country, thousands of schools are identified as needing improvement, part of a new requirement under No Child Left Behind.

Dec. 20, 2003: Three Connecticut towns say they no longer want to receive federal education funds because they don’t want to require their students to take the tests mandated by No Child Left Behind.

What was happening elsewhere in the United States?

2003  Columbia Ap 03011601551

Columbia lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., as the clock shows 4 seconds elapsed Jan. 16, 2003. NASA lost communication with the ship and its seven astronauts as they soared over Texas minutes before their expected landing Feb. 1, 2003.
(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Feb. 1, 2003: NASA suspends the space shuttle program after Columbia burns up during re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere, killing the seven astronauts on board.

March 20, 2003: The United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland invade Iraq, acting on the belief that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

April 2003: Scientists say they have completed the Human Genome Project by identifying more than 20,000 individual genes and base pairs that constitute human DNA.

April 28, 2003: Apple opens its iTunes storeApple opens its iTunes store and revolutionizes the music recording industry by allowing consumers to buy one song at a time.

Dec. 14, 2003: U.S. soldiers capture Saddam Hussein from his hiding place in a tiny bunker at a farmhouse near his hometown of Tikrit.

Share “2003”:


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?