50 Years of American Voices


William J. Bushaw and Valerie J. Calderon

The 46th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll
of the Public’s Attitudes
Toward the Public Schools

“A majority of Americans do not support public education initiatives that they believe were created by or promoted by federal policy makers.

“Over half of Americans (56%) say local school boards should have the greatest influence in deciding what is taught in the public schools. Most Americans (60%) oppose the Common Core State Standards, fearing that the standards will limit the flexibility of the teachers in their communities to teach what they think is best. Seven of 10 Americans support public charter schools, particularly when they’re described as schools that can operate independently and free of regulations. Most Americans (54%) don’t believe standardized tests help teachers know what to teach.”

What was happening in American education?

May 2014: The initiative to use shared assessments to evaluate student learning begins to unravel as only about half of the states plan to use one of the two primary tests developed to align with Common Core State Standards.

June 2014: Every child in the United States is expected to be proficient in reading and mathematics by the end of the 2013-14 school year, according to No Child Left Behind.

June 2014: Rising debt for college students prompts policy makers to take heed. By one estimate, Americans graduating from college in spring 2014 owed on average $33,000 each.

July 2014: The National Education Association calls on Education Secretary Arne Duncan to resign, saying he has hurt teachers and the unions.

August 2014: Indiana, one of the first states to adopt the Common Core State Standards, becomes the first state to rescind its support of the Common Core.

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Common Core standards are posted on a bulletin board in a 2nd-grade classroom at George Buck Elementary School in Indianapolis on March 25, 2013. Indiana became the first state to revoke the standards. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Aug. 27, 2014: A Los Angeles Superior Court judge, Rolf Treu, strikes down five California statutes connected with the awarding of tenure, saying they violated students’ rights to an equal education under the California Constitution because they allowed poorly performing teachers to remain indefinitely in classrooms.

September 2014: In The Teacher Wars, writer Dana Goldstein explores nearly two centuries of teaching in the United States, revealing the roots of many of the issues still confronting educators today.

What else was happening in the United States?

January 2014: Numerous provisions of the Affordable Care Act — known as Obamacare — go into effect.

May 20, 2014: In Town of Greece v. Galloway, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that prayers preceding town hall meetings do not violate the Constitution.

Aug. 9, 2014: Michael Brown is shot in Ferguson, Mo., leading to a state of emergency in that community and widespread concern about shooting death involving young black men. Soon after, Eric Garner dies in New York City after police put him in a choke hold. The two deaths spawn protests across the United States and help galvanize the nascent Black Lives Matter movement.

Oct. 6, 2014: The U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear certain cases, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in five states; other decisions begin to lay the foundation for the U.S. Supreme Court eventual decision in 2015.

Nov. 4, 2014: Republicans win a Senate majority in midterm elections, gaining control of both houses of Congress.

Nov. 20, 2014: President Barack Obama says he will use executive powers to prevent deportation of up to 5 million illegal immigrants and expand protection for so-called DREAMers, bypassing the Republican-controlled Congress that failed to pass an immigration bill.

December 2014: President Obama pledges to reestablish full diplomatic ties with Cuba for the first time since 1961.

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President Barack Obama is shown on a television screen with Spanish captions inside a Cuban coffee shop in Union City, N.J., as a Spanish language television network shows his speech reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba live on Dec. 17, 2014, in Union City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Share “2014”:


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?