50 Years of American Voices


PDK International

The 49th annual PDK Poll
of the Public’s Attitudes
Toward the Public Schools

“Americans overwhelmingly want schools to do more than educate students in academic subjects. They also want schools to help position students for their working lives after school. That means both direct career preparation and efforts to develop students’ interpersonal skills.

“When judging school quality, the public gives much more weight to students’ job preparation and interpersonal development than to their standardized test scores, the poll shows. That said, though, Americans do still value traditional academic preparation, especially opportunities for advanced academic studies.

“As in past years, the 2017 poll shows little public support for using public money to send children to private schools. The more Americans know about how voucher programs work, the less likely they are to support them or to say they’d participate in them.” “These and other results suggest that some of the most prominent ideas that dominate current policy debates — from supporting vouchers to doubling down on high-stakes tests to cutting federal education funding — are out of step with parents’ main concern: They want their children prepared for life after they complete high school.”

What was happening in American education?

2017 De Vos Trump

President Donald Trump with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. (Department of Education)

February 2017: Choice and voucher advocate Betsy DeVos becomes U.S. Secretary of Education.

February 2017: The U.S. Department of Education rescinded its earlier guidance to schools that transgender students have the right to use the bathroom and locker room of their choice. As a result, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the case of student Gavin Grimm who sued his school so he could use the bathroom of his choice.

March 22, 2017: In Endrew F. v. Douglas County, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that schools must offer students with disabilities an education reasonably calculated to enable them to "make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances."

June 26, 2017: In Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, the U.S. Supreme Court decides that religious schools can sometimes qualify for state aid without violating a state’s constitutional separation between church and state.

Sept. 17, 2017: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos scraps a six-year-old policy aimed at better protecting victims of sexual misconduct on college campuses, replacing it with an interim rule she says is meant to strike a more appropriate balance between those accused of sexual misdeeds and their accusers.

What else was happening in the United States?

Jan. 20, 2017: Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.

Jan. 21, 2017: More than a million Americans march to protest Donald Trump’s inauguration as president, including thousands of women who joined the Women’s March in cities across the country.

Jan. 25, 2017: The Dow Jones Industrial Average hits the 20,000 milestone for the first time in history.

Jan. 27, 2017: President Donald Trump signs an executive order banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days and suspends the admission of refugees for 120 days.

March 20, 2017: FBI Director James Comey confirms that his agency is investigating links between Russia and members of the Trump administration.

April 7, 2017: The Senate confirms Neil Gorsuch as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, filling the seat that had been held by Antonin Scalia until his death in 2016.

May 9, 2017: President Donald Trump fires FBI director James Comey.

May 17, 2017: Robert Mueller is appointed as a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Within months, President Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort is indicted and other close associates are charged in connection with the investigation.

Aug. 12, 2017: White nationalists and social justice activities clash at a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., that was organized to protest the removal of a statue honoring Conference Gen. Robert E. Lee. One woman is killed and 19 injured when a car rams into a group of people demonstrating against the alt-right.

Aug. 25–Sept. 20, 2017: Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria make landfall on various U.S. locations, including Puerto Rico, killing hundreds and causing billions of dollars of damage.

Oct. 1, 2017: The massacre at a concert on the Las Vegas strip kills 58 people and injures hundreds in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Oct. 5, 2017: The New York Times publishes a story detailing allegations from numerous women that they had been subjected to sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact by movie executive Harvey Weinstein. This revelation elevates and expands the #MeToo movement.

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Participants march against sexual assault and harassment Nov. 12, 2017, at the #MeToo March in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

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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?