AP Poll: Parents confident, teachers dubious about ‘No Child’ expectations
WASHINGTON – Teachers are far more pessimistic than parents about getting every student to succeed in reading and math as boldly promised by the No Child Left Behind Act. That’s left a huge expectations gap between the two main sets of adults in children’s lives.An AP-AOL Learning Services Poll found nearly eight in 10 parents are confident their local schools will have students up to state standards by the 2013-14 school year target. Yet only half of teachers are confident the kids in their schools will meet that deadline.The finding underscores a theme in the poll. Parents and teachers often disagree on daily aspects of education, from the state of discipline to the quality of high schools.A major reason is that adults see the children differently. Parents tend to focus on their own children, while teachers work with dozens of students from different backgrounds.”I think the standards are being applied to everybody indiscriminately, without regard to their abilities,” said Steve Peterson of Knoxville, Ill., who has been teaching for 31 years.”Schools in general,” he said, “are not going to be able to meet the standards.”The federal law does not set math and reading standards. States decide what is taught and what it means to be proficient. But the law does demand regular testing and yearly improvement by schools, all aimed at getting 100 percent of children to do grade-level work.If teachers themselves are skeptical about the goal, it may make the job even harder.The survey also found:-64 percent of teachers say their state standards in reading and math are about right. Most parents agreed. But parents were also twice as likely as teachers – 31 percent to 15 percent – to say current standards are too lenient.-Parents with college degrees and higher salaries were more optimistic about their school children’s chances for success than parents with less money and less education.-Minority teachers were slightly more likely to be confident that their school would meet math and reading standards than white teachers were. But there was no difference in the confidence level of minority parents and white parents when it came to student expectations.Rusty Barker, a parent in Jackson, Mich., said he’s pretty optimistic that the local high school can get all students up to math and reading standards. He attended the school, and now his daughter does.”There’s more of what kids need, in a one-on-one basis,” Barker said. “While kids have different backgrounds, that shouldn’t be an issue for their learning experience.”President Bush says it is bigotry to expect less of some students, particularly if race is a factor. As he said at the White House in 2004: “We believe every child can learn. We want to know if every child can read and write and add and subtract early, before it’s too late.”Many teachers say the sentiment is right, but incomplete, or even naive.Some students come to school way behind their peers. They may not have good English skills, or study habits, or parents to reinforce lessons at home. The law says schools must overcome that.Sara Jane Cross, a 75-year-old kindergarten teacher in St. Petersburg, Fla., knows that some students come from homes in which education is a priority. Yet their classmates do not.”You don’t know who you’re going to get in a classroom – what type of child, what kind of home,” Cross said. “You can’t expect them to keep up with children who come from fine homes.”For now, the law focuses only on the building-block subjects of reading and math. Schools must test children in those subjects in grades three to eight and once in grades 10 to 12.On that front, many parents and teachers agree, and they aren’t happy. In their view, schools have had to narrow their focus, excluding other subjects and creative learning.”Virtually every parent I know feels the schools are educating to the two subjects they are testing,” said Mitchell Stiers, a father of three children in Cedar Falls, Iowa.The AP-AOL Learning Services Poll of 1,085 parents and 810 teachers of children in kindergarten through 12th grade was conducted online Jan. 13-23 by Knowledge Networks after respondents were initially contacted by using traditional telephone polling. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for parents, 3.5 points for teachers.—Associated Press writer Will Lester contributed to this story.