Is the Public Ready for Educational Change?

Is the U.S. public ready for educational change? The 39th Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Survey indicates the answer is “Yes”.

Does the public support fixing the present system or finding an alternative system?


The fact that 72% of the respondents feel that reforming the existing system is the best route to reform should be gratifying for those of us in public education. The general public, has a strong affinity with its schools.

What does the public see as the greatest challenges faced by educators?


The public identifies “lack of financial support/funding/money” more than 2 to 1 over all other problems. While that does not necessarily translate into more funding for schools, it does show that the public is aware of the lack of funding.

The survey also reveals public support for Charter Schools as a pathway to educational reform.


Would the general public support Virtual Schooling?


Although there has been a significant increase (from 30% to 41%) in the number of respondents that approve of virtual schooling, a significant number (58%) disapprove.


The public sees smaller class size, performance-based financial incentives, professional development, and higher beginning salaries as the most effective ways of attracting and keeping qualified teachers.

I have devoted two posts to this survey because I wanted to explore whether the public is supportive of educators, whether they will support meaningful change, and to better understand their positions on the key issues we discuss endlessly on our blogs.

It seems, in the broadest terms, that the public is with us.The question for us is how do we take this very general and passive support for public education and translate it into support for transformational change.

The Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Survey indicates that we have a firm foundation of trust with the public. It is time for leaders to step forward to create a compelling narratives that tap into the concerns of educators, parents, taxpayers (and students); and at the same time paint a clear picture of education in the 21st Century.

In the midst of the many great challenges we face as a nation; support for public education and our schools, remains strong.



6 thoughts on “Is the Public Ready for Educational Change?

  1. I too am excited by this report and agree that it is time for leaders to step forward to create a narrative, as you call it. Leaders, in the classrooms and administrative offices need to ask themselves a handful of questions which I place here and on are cross referenced on my blog, including but of course not limited to:
    Reform rather than a new alternative?
    Have we not been reforming already?
    What areas are in the need of the most in radical reformation?
    Is it whole sale reformation? A “one size fits all” situation, where everyone changes the same things regardless of the school and communities needs?
    Are will yet willing to answer the question we often ask ourselves “How can we truly educate and develop the WHOLE child?
    I enjoy this conversation.
    Thank you,
    John Franke

  2. John,
    I’m glad you are excited. We’ll need that energy to make the changes that are needed.

    Your questions are good ones and I think one of the problems we have as educators is that there is very little consensus on the answers.

    What I see in the future is the need for much more student empowerment and ownership of schools, as well as their own learning.


  3. I agree with the public that the lack of funding for technology in schools is the problem. We are constantly saying how great technology is and how it should be used in the classroom, but no one can pay for it. In my school we had great technology and up to date computer labs but the system was constantly down, so students were often unable to use the technology anyway. I think the best way we can have updated and working technology in the classroom is to actively get the public and students involved. If other people can see how important it is to the students educations maybe things will start to change.


  4. I may be missing something, but, as an educator myself, I feel like an alternative to the current education system might be a good thing. This is not a negative reflection on teachers. I feel that most of the problems with the education system spring from home issues, and that we need a serious community effort to address these issues if we are to be successful in education.

    I also don’t view financial incentives for teachers based on performance as a good thing. In theory it’s a good idea, but I don’t see how we would effectively measure performance. We don’t have the manpower to observe teachers, and even if we did, I think this would put undue pressure on teachers. We can’t judge teachers based on student performance for obvious reasons.

  5. Dear Pete,

    After reading this post, I think you might be interested in the work we are doing. Please participate if you can…

    We are a team of graduate students studying innovation and change at the University of Minnesota who are researching how much influence teachers do, or do not have, with regard to decisions concerning teaching, learning, curriculum, assessment, and overall public education innovation. We are studying “forums” such as blogs, where people gather to share values. For a variety of reasons, we have been unable to find an easy conduit to initiate a discussion with teachers. As a result, we have turned to blogs, such as your own – an innovation in itself – to attempt to engage you in dialog.

    We have set up The Education Innovation Blog, as a place where we hope to gather your stories, thoughts and opinions on innovation and creativity in education – both what would benefit you as a teacher and what would benefit your students. The blog includes a link to a 10-minute survey that we have developed. We hope this survey will serve as a starting point for discussions. We would very much appreciate your taking the survey and sharing this request with as many of your colleagues as possible. If you find this survey/blog interesting, please post it on your blog so other teachers can see it. ALL SURVEY RESPONSES WILL BE CONFIDENTIAL! The survey will close as of April 30th, however the blog will remain active and results and discussion of this project will be posted there.

    Your postings to the blog will be public. If you prefer to remain anonymous, please post them to our e-mail address,, we will strip them of identifying information and post your remarks anonymously.
    If you have any questions, please e-mail us at Thank you, we hope you will choose to participate and assist us in our research!

    Ben Cashen, Mike Fink, Kristi Mueller, Jen Trochinski, Sarah Waldemar, Wendy Wustenberg, Kun Yang

  6. While I think that it is great that the public can identify what will keep the highly qualified teachers doing the job, they fail to give solutions to this problem. More often then not it is easy to find the problem the hard part comes from trying to find the solution.

    I fully agree that implementing technology into the classroom is greatly needed, but as was mentioned extremely hard to fund. Studies have shown that those student’s with more access to technology do perform better. This being said, I feel that our responsibility as a society is to find a way to make this a reality.

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