50 Years of American Voices


PDK International

The 47th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll
of the Public’s Attitudes
Toward the Public Schools

“Student engagement at school and whether students feel hopeful about their future are far better factors to consider when evaluating schools than using standardized test scores.

“Overall, most Americans believe there’s too much emphasis on standardized testing in public schools, and they rank standardized testing lower than other approaches to measuring student progress such as examples of student work, grades awarded by the teacher, or written observations by the teacher. But, when the results are broken out by demographics, two important groups of Americans — blacks and Hispanics — are somewhat more likely than whites to say that results of standardized tests are very important to improve schools and compare school quality.”

What was happening in American education?

Jan. 1, 2015: Nevada can now deny driver's licenses to students who skip school.

February 2015: The Broad Foundation suspends its annual Broad Prize for Urban Education saying it was disappointed in the overall progress in urban public schools.

2015  Opt Out  Sign

April 2015: Widespread opposition to standardized testing and how test results are used to evaluate teachers prompt thousands of parents in New York state to refuse to have their children take exams this spring.

May 12, 2015: By this date, three states -- Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina -- have repealed their decisions to embrace the Common Core State Standards.

June 2015: In California, Gov. Jerry Brown signs into law a bill requiring California public and private school parents to vaccinate their children against various diseases in order to attend school.

Dec. 10, 2015: President Barack Obama signs the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorizes the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the nation’s primary education legislation.

Dec. 30, 2015: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan leaves office, ending a tenure as one of the longest-serving education secretaries and also one of the most controversial.

What else was happening in the United States?

March 2015: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server becomes an issue in the presidential campaign.

Spring 2015: Freddie Gray dies under suspicious circumstances while in police custody in Baltimore in April; Sandra Bland dies under similar suspicious circumstances while in police custody in Texas in July, both cases adding to the concerns about police actions involving black Americans. Riots follow Gray’s death and, coupled with other similar deaths, lead to the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement.

April 2015: Former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner comes out as a transgender woman, significantly adding to the public attention about transgender issues.

May 20, 2015: The last episode of the “Late Show with David Letterman” airs.

June 17, 2015: Nine people are murdered during a prayer service at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C.

June 26, 2015: In Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that same-sex marriages are legal.

2015  Same sex marriage Ap 756607971383

Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case that legalized same sex marriage nationwide, is backed by supporters at the Texas Capitol during a rally June 29, 2015, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

June 2015: During the presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump calls for a “complete and total ban on Muslims entering the United States” and says he wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

Aug. 6, 2015: “The Daily Show” starring Jon Stewart airs for the last time.

Oct. 22, 2015: Hillary Clinton testifies for more than 11 hours before the Benghazi Committee regarding her actions relative to the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Libya in which four Americans were killed.

Dec. 30, 2015: Comedian Bill Cosby is arrested on charges of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at Temple University in 2004.

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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?