50 Years of American Voices


William J. Bushaw and Shane J. Lopez

The 42nd Annual PDK/Gallup Poll
of the Public’s Attitudes
Toward the Public Schools

“Analyzing this year’s polling data suggests that Americans recognize that schools need the highest-quality teachers possible and that providing those teachers should be a #1 priority. Americans will support programs that invest in improved teacher skills. They will support programs that recruit the best candidates and that train current and prospective teachers to use the best teaching approaches. And they will support efforts to retain the best teachers and dismiss those who aren’t skilled or suited for the task.

“In other situations, American public opinion seems conservative, suggesting that Americans may be too willing to accept the status quo. Education reformers are then likely to discount public opinion, assuming that the American public either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care.

“This is a mistake. Americans do care about the public schools, and they understand more than we imagine. But at times, they can be cautious about change. In those situations, reformers must recognize the importance of communicating with Americans why certain changes are essential to securing our nation’s future by helping all children succeed to their greatest potential. Not communicating the need for change and a vision for improved public education will result in rejection by the American public and the continuation of failed programs that don’t serve c

What was happening in American education?

2010: Common Core State Standards are released for English language arts and mathematics.

2010: California passes the so-called Parent Trigger law (officially, the Parent Empowerment Act), which gives parents the option to petition their school district to institute certain reforms in their child’s school.

2010: The documentary “The Race to Nowhere” explores the effect of competitiveness and overscheduling on U.S. students.

March 2010: In “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education,” Diane Ravitch repudiates positions she previously advocated for and critiques some of the most popular ideas for reforming schools, including privatization, standardized testing, punitive accountability, and widespread use of charter schools.

August 2010: Kentucky is the first state to implement the Common Core State Standards, and local school districts began offering new math and English curricula based on the standards.

Aug. 10, 2010: The Race to the Top’s deadline for states to adopt common standards.

September 2010: The documentary “Waiting for Superman” criticizes the American education system by telling the story of several students trying to gain entry to charter schools.

2010  Waiting for Superman

"Waiting for Superman"

What else was happening in the United States?

March 23, 2010: Usually referred to as Obamacare, Congress passes and President Barack Obama signs into law the Affordable Care Act.

April 3, 2010: Apple launches the iPad and sells 3 million in its first month.

April 20, 2010: Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig explosion and fire kills 11 workers and creates the worst oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

2010  Deepwater Horizon Ap 100421142959

An oil slick is seen as the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns on April 21, 2010. The oil platform that burned for 36 hours after a massive explosion sank April 22, 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard said.(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

November 2010: The Tea Party movement gains momentum in the Republican Party, and Republicans take control of the U.S. House of Representatives and gain six seats in the U.S. Senate. Republicans also increased the number of state legislatures they controlled to 26.

Nov. 18, 2010: General Motors rebounds from bankruptcy by making a profit and issuing stock in a reorganized public company.

Share “2010”:


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?