Alexander Says Familiar Problems Are Hurting America's Schools

Posted on June 21, 2006

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Education and Early Childhood Development Subcommittee, said the results of a poll released today by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) show that Americans believe we must act now to address longstanding problems hurting our schools. “The American people are more willing than many of their leaders to support real change in our public schools,” said Alexander. “They’re tired of waiting for our schools to crawl out of the ruts they’ve been stuck in for decades. We don’t pay teachers more for teaching well. We limit families’ choices on where to send their children to school. Our expectations for children are too low. This poll shows that Americans understand we must dramatically increase our expectations and our efforts if we are to preserve America’s competitive edge. We have made some progress with the standards-based reform movement, but there is much more work to be done.” The ETS poll, a survey 1,215 adults, found that 53 percent of Americans support major changes or a complete overhaul of our public schools. The poll also found: * 48 percent of adults believer our nation’s high schools set only moderate expectations for their students, while another 37 percent believe that students are not challenged at all; *Americans gave our nation’s schools an overall grade of C. High school teachers gave our schools a C-plus. College faculty gave them a C, saying that too many students arrive on campus unprepared for college-level work; *91 percent of adults favor overhauling teacher hiring practices to attract passionate and talented teachers, and creating a “master teacher” ladder to reward teaching as a career; *85 percent of Americans are willing to attract math and science teachers through financial incentives such as differential pay and higher salaries, and; *62 percent of public school parents have transferred a child out of one school into a better school, or have chosen that residence based on school district. In addition, according to the poll, 76 percent of adults believe that America’s next generation may be the first generation that is worse off economically than their parents, unless those children’s skills in math, science and engineering are improved. Alexander, along with Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), has introduced the Protecting America’s Competitive Edge (PACE) Act. The PACE Act includes provisions to help strengthen our nation’s education system by improving teacher training in math and science, recruiting more math and science teachers, and providing opportunities for math and science experts to fill our nation’s schools and improve curriculum and classroom experience for children. “American experts who travel to China, India and elsewhere come home saying, ‘Watch out.’ This poll shows that Americans are hearing that message loud and clear, and understand that we must maintain our brainpower advantage in this country so we can keep and grow good jobs here instead of shipping them overseas,” he said. “Better schools, better universities, more research, more math and science – means better jobs.” # # #