More Americans — 29 percent — believe education is worse because of the No Child Left Behind Act than those who believe it is better off (16 percent).
Another 38 percent said the act of Congress that changed the federal government's role in public schools by focusing on student achievement has made no difference, according to a Gallup's annual Work and Education poll.
"Such ambivalence probably gives the Obama administration broad political latitude to modify NCLB through executive fiats, such as the recent decision to grant states waivers from meeting the law's key benchmarks," Gallup noted.
A random telephone sample of 1,012 adults, ages 18 and older, living across the U.S. and the District of Columbia, was conducted Aug. 9-12. The poll found that 17 percent were too unfamiliar with the law to rate it.
Congruent with Gallup's findings in 2009, the poll found that lower-income Americans were evenly divided in their opinions of NCLB, while middle and upper-income Americans viewed the act negatively. Twenty-two percent of adults in households earning less than $30,000 a year are more likely to believe the law has made public education better, while 15 percent did not.
The No Child Left Behind Act has sparked harsh criticism from both the political right and left for 10 years. "Now, with Republicans and Democrats in Congress unable to agree on terms to extend it," Gallup observed, "the U.S. Department of Education has excused half of the states from the NCLB mandate to make all students proficient in reading and math by 2014, with 11 more waivers under consideration."
Gallup offered one cautionary word to those seeking to dismantle the act: It "could be that lower-income Americans show more support for the law than middle- or upper-income Americans do — although even lower-income Americans are divided in their views of it."