50 Years of American Voices


William J. Bushaw and Shane J. Lopez

The 43rd Annual PDK/Gallup Poll
of the Public’s Attitudes
Toward the Public Schools

“Americans have reached their own conclusions about what’s necessary to ensure a good education for all children: Identify and retain great teachers. Not only do Americans understand the need for great teachers, they also trust and support teachers who are in classrooms now. And when it comes to choosing between highly effective teachers versus class size or the style of presentation, they go with teachers every time.

“Three of four Americans support recruiting high-achieving high school students to become teachers, and the same percentage would encourage the brightest person they know to become a teacher. Half said that encouraging high school and college students to become science and math teachers is just as important as encouraging them to become scientists and mathematicians. But two of three think the ability to teach comes more from natural talent than from college training on how to teach.

“Two of three Americans would like a child of theirs to become a public school teacher, a finding consistent with past poll results. However, Americans are concerned that their local public schools are having a hard time getting good teachers. This could be because Americans say they hear more bad stories than good stories about teachers from the news media.

“Almost three of four Americans have trust and confidence in public school teachers, and this level of trust is even higher for Americans under age 40, the college educated, and parents of children in public schools. As an indicator of this trust, three of four Americans believe teachers should have flexibility to teach in the ways they think best rather than being required to follow a prescribed curriculum.”

What was happening in American education?

April 4, 2011: In Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that Arizona’s tuition tax credit does not violate the Establishment Clause because it funneled money to private religious schools.

July 2011: The National Research Council releases its Framework for K-12 Science Education, which describes a vision of what it means for students to be proficient in science. The document is prepared by the scientific and educational research communities and becomes the guide for developing the Next Generation Science Standards.

2011: Indiana begins its statewide school voucher program known as Indiana's Choice Scholarship Program.

Fall 2011: When Congress delays reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Obama administration offers states waivers to many of the mandates in No Child Left Behind. States must embrace college-ready and work-ready academic standards, teacher evaluations tied to student outcomes, and more aggressively try to turn around schools.

Fall 2011: The enrollment of about 160,000 students for an online Stanford University course demonstrates the new appeal of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and dramatically shifts how colleges think about course offerings and open access.

What else was happening in the United States?

2011  Osama bin Laden Ap 11050212649

Los Angeles Times newspapers with the headline "Justice has been done" on May 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Jan. 8, 2011: A gunman opens fire at an outdoor event in Tucson, Ariz., killing six people and seriously wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Jan. 19, 2011: Numerous states sue the federal government to prevent implementation of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

May 2, 2011: U.S. Navy SEALs kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

May 25, 2011: “The Oprah Winfrey Show” ends after a run of 25 years.

July 2011: The U.S. military ends its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which allows gay and lesbian soldiers to be public about their sexual orientation.

October 2011: Occupy Wall Street protests begin in New York City. More than 700 people are arrested while attempting to cross the Brooklyn Bridge in protest.

2011  Occupy Wall St Ap 110917136043

Demonstrators gather to call for the occupation of Wall Street on Sept. 17, 2011, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Oct. 5, 2011: Apple founder Steve Jobs dies.

Oct. 21, 2011: President Barack Obama declares the war in Iraq over and orders troops home.

Share “2011”:


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?