Intense controversies do not alter public thinking, but teachers differ more sharply than ever.
By William Howell, Martin West, and Paul E. Peterson
Public education has rarely been far from the national headlines over the past year. Efforts to limit teachers’ collective-bargaining rights led to mass protests in several states. The enactment of voucher programs renewed the debate over the role of private school choice in American education. Meanwhile, the first significant budget cuts in recent memory forced public school districts to tighten their belts in unprecedented ways. The Obama administration has encouraged a nationwide effort to develop common school standards. And let’s not forget Waiting for “Superman,” the high-profile documentary whose poignant portrayal of the charter-school admissions process, coupled with a critique of union power in public schools, was expected to have a significant impact on national opinion.
But how have Americans actually responded to these developments? Have they grown more supportive of the current direction of school reform, or are there instead signs of a backlash? And how do the views of teachers compare to those of the public at large?...