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August 26, 2009

41st Annual PDK Poll Reveals Strong Public Support for National Tests, Charter Schools, Teacher Performance Pay, Early Childhood Education, and President's Stimulus Package
Poll Findings Deemed Public "Permission Slip" for President Obama's Education Agenda; Public Growing Weary of No Child Left Behind Act, Report Reveals.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind., Aug. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Whether the issue is expanding charter schools or implementing merit pay for teachers, Americans appear to agree with President Barack Obama's plans for education reform, according to the 2009 annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.

The President's ambitious agenda includes higher standards and more funding for early learning settings, expanding charter schools, reshaping teacher pay to reward effective teachers, and introducing common standards that could lead to a national test administered by states.

The findings indicate that Americans continue to support annual testing of students in grades three through eight by a two-to-one margin, and they favor using a single national test rather than letting each state use its own. This opinion is held by Democrats and Republicans equally.

Two out of three Americans support charter schools, although many Americans are confused about whether charter schools are public schools and whether they can charge tuition, teach religion, or select their own students. During the last five years, Americans' approval of charter schools has increased by 15 percent.

The poll, which is conducted annually by Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) in conjunction with Gallup, asked Americans about using stimulus money to save teachers' jobs, investing in early childhood education, and other public education issues. Specifically, 46 percent of Americans support the use of stimulus money earmarked for education to retain teachers slated to be laid off, and 81 percent of Americans favor making kindergarten compulsory.

The 2009 poll also reveals that almost three out of four Americans favor merit pay for teachers regardless of political affiliation. Student academic achievement, administrator evaluations, and advanced degrees are the three most favored criteria for awarding merit pay.

"The poll results appear to be a permission slip for the President's education agenda," said William Bushaw, executive director of PDK International and co-director of the PDK/Gallup poll. "It provides a ringing endorsement for many of the Administration's planned changes that will be taken up in Congress next year as lawmakers debate what to do with the No Child Left Behind Act."

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