50 Years of American Voices


William J. Bushaw and John A. McNee

The 41st Annual PDK/Gallup Poll
of the Public’s Attitudes
Toward the Public Schools

“Support for NCLB continues to decline. Only one out of four Americans believe NCLB has helped schools in their community. But, two to one, Americans support annual testing of students in grades three through eight and using a single national test rather than letting each state use its own test.

“Almost two out of three Americans support charter schools. But, they clearly don't understand exactly what they are, showing confusion about whether they’re public schools and whether they can charge tuition, teach religion, or select their own students.

“Almost three out of four Americans favor merit pay for teachers. Advanced degrees, student academic achievement, and administrator evaluations are the three most favored criteria for awarding merit pay.”

What was happening in American education?

2009  Arne Duncan

Arne Duncan is named Secretary of Education. (Department of Education)

January 2009: Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan is named U.S. Secretary of Education.

2009: Governors and state school chiefs from 51 states and territories begin to work together to develop what will become the Common Core State Standards.

2009: The Obama administration establishes the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) to support performance-based teacher and principal compensation systems in high-need schools, primarily through grants to school districts and consortia of school districts.

July 25, 2009: Race to the Top awards grants to states that sign on to the priorities on school turnarounds, state data systems, standards, assessments, and teacher evaluations. Race to the Top also allocates funds to design new tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

October 2009: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution publishes an analysis of statistically unlikely standardized test scores that show extraordinary gains or losses in a single year. These articles launch a state investigation that ultimately leads to charges against 35 teachers and administrators, including the district’s superintendent.

What else was happening in the United States?

2009  Obama Loc 00603V

Barack Obama is the nation's first African-American president. (Library of Congress)

Jan. 20, 2009: Barack Obama takes office as the first African-American president of the United States.

January-February 2009: With the U.S. economy in the worst downturn since the Great Depression, Congress passes the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, committing $831 billion in stimulus funding.

June 1, 2009: In spite of $19.4 billion in federal assistance, General Motors files for bankruptcy protection.

June 25, 2009: The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, dies of cardiac arrest at the age of 50.

Aug. 8, 2009: Sonia Sotomayor becomes first Hispanic associate justice on U.S. Supreme Court.

2009: Tea Party protests pop up across the United States in response to big-spending plans by Bush and continued by Obama.

October 2009: Unemployment reaches 10%.

Share “2009”:


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?