is a set of tracking surveys designed to find out what people really think about important issues in education. From 1998 through 2002, Public Agenda conducted annual Reality Check surveys of parents, teachers, students, employers and college professors, primarily covering standards, testing, and accountability issues. In 2005 and 2006, Public Agenda revised and updated these Reality Check surveys to cover a broader range of questions, including high school reform, school leadership, teacher preparation and quality, school funding and other key issues.
Although school leaders nationwide give local schools good marks, those in districts with mainly-minority and low-income students - especially the principals - tell a different story. A majority of principals in mainly-minority schools say their schools have serious problems with too many kids dropping out, acting disrespectfully and slipping though the system without learning. Overall, principals in mainly minority schools are less satisfied with their teaching staffs than principals in mainly-white schools. They are also less likely to say that they have enough authority to do their jobs. Reality Check surveys of teachers tend to confirm this picture. Teachers in low-income and/or mainly-minority schools are more likely to report serious problems with kids slipping through the system without learning. They are also less likely to think their students learn to speak and write English well or will have learned the expected material by the end of the school year.