Education Next, a journal published by the Hoover Institute, has released a new public opinion poll on education issues. The reauthorization of No Child Left Behind has been delayed since 2007, and if members of Congress see this poll, they might conclude they don't want to tackle the issue until after 2010 midterm elections. NCLB's popularity is at an all-time low, as is the more general idea of a "federal accountability law." Yet the consensus in Washington is that the law is worth preserving, albeit with significant modifications.
The poll was conducted March, at the height of President Obama's popularity. So it's unsurprising that when respondents were told about Obama's support for teacher merit pay and charter schools, their own support for such policies increased. Obama's influence on respondents was stronger than the influence of "research," if they were told research suggested a policy worked:
My only problem with this poll is that when it comes to merit pay and charters, research is actually far from conclusive. A study of charter schools in 16 states -- conducted by Stanford, where Education Next is based -- found that in math, only about 17 percent of charter schools increase student achievement over traditional public schools. The researchers described the results as "sobering." On merit pay, I've written at length about the lack of strong evidence that changing the way teachers are paid will lead to gains in student achievement -- though there may be other benefits.