Public Opinion

Peterson, Howell and West: Teachers Unions Have a Popularity Problem. Paul Peterson, William Howell, Martin R. West. The Wall Street Journal. June 04, 2012.

However Wisconsin's recall election turns out on Tuesday, teachers unions already appear to be losing a larger political fight—in public opinion. In our latest annual national survey, we found that the share of the public with a positive view of union impact on local schools has dropped by seven percentage points in the past year. Among teachers, the decline was an even more remarkable 16 points.

African-Americans for Charter Schools: New survey data show black support on the rise. So why is the NAACP opposed?. Paul Peterson, Martin West . The Wall Street Journal. August 03, 2010.

This past week the NAACP, the National Urban League and other civil-rights groups collectively condemned charter schools. Claiming to speak for minority Americans, the organizations expressed "reservations" about the Obama administration's "extensive reliance on charter schools." They specifically voiced concern about "the overrepresentation of charter schools in low-income and predominantly minority communities."

What the Public Thinks of Public Schools. Paul Peterson. The Wall Street Journal. September 09, 2009.

Yesterday President Barack Obama delivered a pep talk to America's schoolchildren. The president owes a separate speech to America's parents. They deserve some straight talk on the state of our public schools.

According to the just released Education Next poll put out by the Hoover Institution, public assessment of schools has fallen to the lowest level recorded since Americans were first asked to grade schools in 1981. Just 18% of those surveyed gave schools a grade of an A or a B, down from 30% reported by a Gallup poll as recently as 2005.

Dog Eats AFT Homework. William G. Howell, Martin R. West, Paul Peterson. The Wall Street Journal. August 18, 2004.
Scalia’s Constitution: Essays on Law and Education. Paul E. Peterson, Michael W. McConnell. Palgrave Macmillan, 151 pages. 2018.

This book explores the application of Scalia’s textualism and originalism to education law and reflects upon Scalia’s teachings and his pedagogy. Education law may seem to be an odd vehicle for considering Scalia’s constitutional approach, but thinking about schools requires attention to political fundamentals—freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, equality of opportunity, federalism, and the proper role of the expert. Legal scholars, philosophers, and political scientists provide both critiques and apologies for Scalia’s approach.

Not Leaving, Just Changing Jobs. Paul E. Peterson. Education Next, 16(3). 2016.

This is the last issue of Education Next for which I will serve as editor-in-chief. In an era when many magazines have disappeared from newsstands, it is an honor that so many of you continue to find the journal’s material worthy of your consideration.

James S. Coleman: Education’s North Star. Paul E. Peterson. Education Next, 16(2). 2016.

A star has at least five points. So I was told by a senior colleague at a time in my life when I was desperately trying to figure out how to burnish just one. Even by that standard, James S. Coleman is securely situated in a celestial constellation, as five points can be discerned even if one looks only at his research on schools.

Teachers versus the Public - What Americans Think about Schools and How to Fix Them. Paul Peterson, Michael Henderson, Martin R. West. Brookings Institution Press, 177 pages. 2014.

A comprehensive exploration of 21st Century school politics, Teachers versus the Public offers the first comparison of the education policy views of both teachers and the public as a whole, and reveals a deep, broad divide between the opinions held by citizens and those who teach in the public schools. Among the findings:

• Divisions between teachers and the public are wider and deeper than differences between other groups often thought to contest school policy, such as Republicans and Democrats, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, or African Americans and whites.

Alyesha Taveras (left) graduated from high school in 2012 and is currently enrolled at Seton Hall University.
The Impact of School Vouchers on College Enrollment. Matthew M. Chingos, Paul E. Peterson. Education Next, 13(3). 2013.

In 1996, Cardinal John J. O’Connor, archbishop of New York, proposed to Rudy Crew, chancellor of the New York City public school system, that the city’s most troubled public-school students be sent to Catholic schools, where he would see that they were given an education. New York City’s mayor at that time, Rudolph Giuliani, a voucher supporter, attempted to secure public funds that would allow Catholic schools to fulfill the cardinal’s offer. But voucher opponents condemned the idea on the grounds that it violated the no establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment.

Reform Agenda Gains Strength: The 2012 EdNext-PEPG survey finds Hispanics give schools higher grade than others do. William Howell, Martin West , Paul Peterson. Education Next, 13(1). Winter 2013.

In the following essays, we identify some of the key findings from the sixth annual Education Next-PEPG Survey, a nationally representative sample of U.S. citizens interviewed during April and May of 2012 (for survey methodology, see sidebar). Highlights include

The Education Iron Triangle. Martin R. West, Michael Henderson, Paul Peterson. The Forum: Vol. 10: Iss. 1, Article 5. 2012.

Do teachers and the public disagree on education reform? We use data from a nationally representative survey conducted in 2011 to identify the extent of the differences between the opinion of teachers and the general public on a wide range of education policies. The overall cleavage between teachers and the general public is wider than the cleavages between other relevant groups, including that between Democrats and Republicans.

Meeting of the Minds. William G. Howell, Paul E. Peterson, Martin R. West. Education Next, 11(1), 20-31. Winter 2011.

Democrats and Republicans in Washington, D.C., are more polarized today than they have been in nearly a century. And among the general public, party identification remains the single most powerful predictor of people’s opinions about a wide range of policy issues. Given this environment, reaching consensus on almost any issue of consequence would appear difficult. And when it comes to education policy, which does a particularly good job of stirring people’s passions, opportunities for advancing meaningful policy reform would appear entirely fleeting.

The Persuadable Public. William Howell, Paul E. Peterson, Martin R. West. Education Next, 9(4), 20-29. 2009.

What do Americans think about their schools? More important, perhaps, what would it take to change their minds? Can a president at the peak of his popularity convince people to rethink their positions on specific education reforms? Might research findings do so? And when do new facts have the potential to alter public thinking? Answers to these questions can be gleaned from surveys conducted over the past three years under the auspices of Education Next and Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG).

The 2008 Education Next-PEPG Survey of Public Opinion: Americans think less of their schools than of their police departments and post offices. William Howell, Martin West , Paul Peterson. Education Next, 8(4), 12-26. 2008.

Americans clearly have had their fill of a sluggish economy and an unpopular war. Their frustration now may also extend to public education. In this, the second annual national survey of U.S. adults conducted under the auspices of Education Next and the Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) at Harvard University, we observe a public that takes an increasingly critical view both of public schools as they exist today and, perhaps ironically, of many prominent reforms designed to improve them.

School Vouchers in the United States: Productivity in the Public and Private Sectors. Paul Peterson. Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft - Journal of Educational Science, ZfE 11, 2:253-267, ZfE 11, 2:253-267. 2008.