50 Years of American Voices


Lowell C. Rose and Alec M. Gallup

The 37th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools

“The American public doesn’t know a lot about No Child Left Behind (NCLB), has mixed feelings about the law itself, and is dubious about the statute’s machinery. These results aren’t shocking. The implications could be another story.

“While the public embraces educational accountability in principle, it always hesitates when faced with the messy reality. The poll results depict antipathy toward key NCLB components, including the emphasis on math and English assessment, use of subgroups, and uniform state performance standards for schools and students.

“This skepticism isn’t about to melt away. Respondents who know ‘a great deal’ about NCLB are no more supportive of its provisions — aside from the requirement to disaggregate performance data by student subgroups — than anyone else. Whether proponents can find a way to persuade the public that NCLB is necessary, effective, and sensibly designed will likely determine the fate of this landmark legislation.”

— Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy studies, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C.

What was happening in American education?

February 2011: Complaints about complying with the mandates of No Child Left Behind are increasing. Connecticut sues the federal government over its right to force states to assume the costs of unfunded mandates. (The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately declined to hear the legal challenge.)

Feb. 15, 2005: Utah legislature wants state education officials to give higher priority to local educational goals than to those embodied by No Child Left Behind and to spend as little money as possible to comply with the federal law.

March 21, 2005: Ten students are murdered during a shooting spree in Red Lake, Minn., the worst school shooting since the Columbine High School.

2005: No Child Left Behind sets the beginning of the 2005-06 school year as the deadline for states to have in place annual reading and math tests for grades 3-8 and once in high school.

What else was happening in the United States?

Jan. 20, 2005: George W. Bush is sworn in for his second term as president of the United States.

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February 2005: YouTube.com is launched and the first uploads are accepted on April 23.

Aug. 23-31, 2005: Hurricane Katrina strikes the Gulf Coast, flooding New Orleans and much of Louisiana and Mississippi and bringing to national attention the failing infrastructure of the United States. Hurricane Rita soon follows, forcing evacuations in Houston.

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The floor of Houston's Astrodome is covered with cots and evacuees from hurricane ravaged New Orleans on Sept. 2, 2005. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Sept. 29, 2005: John Roberts, initially nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace Sandra Day O’Connor, is confirmed as chief justice following the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

July 24, 2005: Lance Armstrong wins a record 7th straight Tour de France, seven years before all his titles are stripped because of doping offenses.

Oct. 28, 2005: A federal grand jury indicts vice presidential adviser Lewis Libby on charges of obstruction of justice and other crimes for his role in the leak of the identity of covert Central Intelligence Agency officer Valerie Plame.

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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?