New poll on public schools: Americans wary of testing, vouchers and Common Core

In its 47th Annual Poll of Public Attitudes toward Public Schools, the PDK/Gallup Poll released today found the recurring contradiction that while Americans harbor misgivings about public education in general, they give their local schools high marks.

No hedThe poll found other contradictions; Americans are skeptical of Common Core at the same time they cite academic standards as one of the five biggest problems facing schools in their community.

While respondents agree there is too much focus on testing, they divide over whether parents should be able to have their kid sit out tests.

In addition, Americans remain leery of vouchers; only 31 percent favor allowing students to attend private schools on the public tab.

Here is the official statement from the pollsters:

The public believes there is too much emphasis on standardized testing in their local schools but are split almost evenly on whether parents should have the right to excuse their children from such testing, a new survey shows.

Sixty-four percent say there is “too much emphasis on testing” and 41% say parents should be able to opt their children out of standardized testing. A majority (54%) oppose having local teachers use the Common Core Standards to guide what they teach.

However, blacks and Hispanics are somewhat more likely than whites to say that results of standardized tests are very important to improve schools and to compare school quality. Blacks also are more likely than whites to say that parents should not be allowed to excuse their child from taking standardized tests.

A strong majority — about eight in 10 — of the U.S. public believes the effectiveness of their local public schools should be measured by how engaged the students are with classwork and by their level of hope for the future.

These and other findings are included in the 47th annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes toward the Public Schools. Conducted annually by PDK International in conjunction with Gallup, the poll is the longest-running survey of attitudes toward education and thus provides an extensive and trusted repository of data documenting how the U.S. public’s views on public education have changed over the decades.

For the first time, the 2015 poll is able to report opinions among whites, blacks and Hispanics because of the addition of a web-based poll with a larger sample of 3,499 U.S. adults.

“By expanding our poll and disaggregating by demographics, we’re now able to better understand and convey more deeply how different groups of Americans experience public education,” said Joshua P. Starr, the chief executive officer of PDK International. “National survey results and averages are important, but they’re a starting point for deeper conversation on why there are different opinions among different groups of Americans. Policymakers need to look at those differences.”

Overall, with consistency, the U.S. public believes their local schools are doing a good job though they say they are underfunded; supports charter schools but not vouchers for private schools, and strongly opposes any federal role in holding public schools accountable.

While 57% of public school parents give their local schools an “A” or “B” for performance, that drops to just 19% when asked to rate public schools nationwide.

A majority — 64% — say parents should be able to choose any public school in their community for their child to attend. And if parents could choose any public school, they say their top priorities would be the quality of teachers, the curriculum, discipline and class size, not standardized test scores or successful athletic programs.

Nearly all adults nationally (84%) support mandatory vaccinations for students attending public schools.

When asked to rate the importance of knowing how students in local schools perform on standardized tests compared with students in other school districts, about one-third of blacks (31%) and Hispanics (29%) think comparisons with other districts are very important compared with 15% of whites.

When asked if public school parents should be allowed to excuse their child from taking standardized tests, 57% of blacks say parents should not be allowed to excuse their child. Among Hispanics, that margin is 45%. But among whites, 41% said “no” while 44% said “yes.”

Overall, 54% of the public opposes teachers using the Common Core State Standards to guide what they teach. However, 41% of blacks favor that approach compared with 21% of whites.

A majority of blacks — 55% — give President Obama a grade of an “A” or “B” for his support of public schools compared with 17% of whites.

“African-American children often end up in lower-performing and under-resourced schools and I think these results suggest an important segment of the black community thinks the federal government could do a better job than local and state governments in holding schools and educators accountable,” observed Starr.

Nationally, 2015 is the 10th consecutive year in which the public identified lack of financial support as the biggest problem facing local school systems. U.S. adults are consistent in saying that the most important idea for improving public schools is to improve teacher quality; in 2015, 95% considered “quality of the teachers” to be very important, putting it at the top of a list of five options.

“The 2015 survey results highlight significant issues for education leaders, communities and policymakers,” Starr concluded. “The public wants more state and local leadership on education issues; they want more effective teachers, and even if they don’t like the brand name ‘Common Core,’ they want a strong curriculum that engages students in classes that aren’t too large. The poll results make clear what the public wants; the question is whether policymakers and leaders will respond accordingly.”

Starr, the former superintendent of the Stamford, Conn., and Montgomery County, Md., school systems, became CEO of PDK International in June. He succeeded William J. Bushaw, who retired after 11 years in the post. Starr holds a doctorate in education from Harvard, a master’s degree in special education from Brooklyn College and a bachelor’s degree in English and history from the University of Wisconsin.

PDK, a global network of education professionals, has conducted an annual poll with Gallup every year since 1969. The poll serves as an opportunity for parents, educators and legislators to assess public opinion about public schools. The latest findings are based on a web survey of 3,499 U.S. adults with Internet access plus telephone interviews with a national sample of 1,001 U.S. adults. Both surveys included a sub-sample of parents and were conducted in May 2015.

 

Reader Comments 0

85 comments
JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

There are only four people on this blog and Astronut/ ClassoldFool/ Poptart is all of them. Please God close those damn public schools so this person can shut the hell up!!!!!!! The same mindless dribble day after day. Astronut has plenty of evidence that Charter is a buzz word. The truth is. If they closed all public schools and made them:Charter, Private, Home School, or Opportunity. The same kids and teachers will be in the classroom the next day, with the same problems! Unfortunately the same people whining about the good old days before charters!



BCW1
BCW1

Public education has become the scapegoat for society's problems. Everybody has THE ANSWER for the problems and nobody has solved them. In the meantime educators have been thrown under the bus and kicked around to the point where they wonder who is an advocate for them. We have gotten to the point where no one in Washington or Atlanta can be trusted with education reform!!

Yes, there are some educators that have no business teaching, but they are few and far between. Give US control of what goes on because we know what needs to take place.

redweather
redweather

@jarvis1975 @BCW1 Specifically, our public school systems can no longer be treated as political footballs. That would be a start. But we can't get there.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@jarvis1975 


It depends on the outcome desired. What do you think would be a good longterm outcome for a child born in GA?

straker
straker

Public schools have become a witch's brew of politics, racism and lawsuits.


I'm glad I no longer have kids is school.

TaxiSmith
TaxiSmith

We need to get over pour "wariness" of vouchers," as that is the only way for parents effectively to have control over their child's education. Period. How effective have parents with children in the APS been with getting productive change? NOT AT ALL

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@TaxiSmith


Are you also for vouchers for:


Law Enforcement

Fire Fighting

Road paving

Water Treatment

Restaurant Inspection

Recreation

Courts

Jails


???????

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

"A strong majority — about eight in 10 — of the U.S. public believes the effectiveness of their local public schools should be measured by how engaged the students are with classwork and by their level of hope for the future."

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The "level of hope for the future" is critical for students to experience in their public schools.

class80olddog
class80olddog

"And if parents could choose any public school, they say their top priorities would be the quality of teachers, the curriculum, discipline and class size..."

Wonder why discipline is in there?  Since we never discuss it, I thought there were NO discipline problems in schools.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@redweather @class80olddog You guys keep saying that we discuss these subjects, but when did you last see a blog about "the discipline problem in schools" or "handling discipline". The only one I can remember was the racial differences in discipline handed out.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@redweather @class80olddog I went back over a hundred blogs to find one that dealt with discipline - and that one was about a cellphone video of two girls fighting and what should be done. 

I saw no blogs about attendance or social promotion.

I saw LOTS about charter schools and school choice. 

redweather
redweather

@class80olddog @redweather But the issue is discussed almost constantly here.  Or at least posters like you never miss an opportunity to bring it up.  Here's an idea.  Why don't you write an Op/Ed piece about it and send it to Maureen.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@redweather @class80olddog I bring it up constantly - you are correct.  The only other "discussion" I remember is teachers complaining that when they send someone to the office, the office just sends them back in order to minimize the "official" reports of disciplinary issues.

I would love to do an op/ed piece and send it to Maureen, but have not found the time to do the good research it would take (I like facts).  Actually, I would rather do one on attendance or social promotion.  But any of these would really need some research involving teacher interviews and polls.

redweather
redweather

@class80olddog @redweather There's plenty of information out there about the connection between attendance and academic success. You wouldn't have to interview anyone.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@class80olddog @redweather Not sure how you could go back over 100 blogs as the online archives have been shut down, but here is one I found in the last two years through another search route:


Despite a century of research, educators continue to argue over whether it helps or hurts students to hold them back when they perform below grade level.

A panel sponsored by the Center on Children and Families at Brookings Institution explored the retention vs. social promotion divide. On the side of retention --- at least as part of a comprehensive reform strategy --- was Harvard professor and Mitt Romney campaign education adviser Martin R. West, who reviewed the research on social promotion and grade retention and the Florida results for a Brookings policy brief.

Since 2003, Florida has required that third graders scoring at the lowest level on state reading tests be held back and given intense remediation.

Compared with similar students who were not retained, the retained kids were 11 percentage points less likely to be retained one year after they were initially held back and roughly 4 percentage points less likely to be retained in each of the following three years, according to West. As a result, students retained in third grade after five years are only 0.7 grade levels behind their peers who were immediately promoted to grade four.

While West agrees that the short-term benefits of retention diminish over time, "the retained students continue to perform markedly better than their promoted peers when tested at the same grade level and, assuming they are as likely to graduate high school, stand to benefit from an additional year of instruction. These factors may increase the likelihood of enduring benefits."

But researcher and fellow panelist Shane Jimerson of the University of California Santa Barbara opposed retention in any form, explaining, "Among over 1,000 analysis of achievement and adjustment outcomes during the past 100 years, there are few that reveal significant positive effects associated with grade retention. Whereas short-term gains, for instance, during the repeated year and possibly the following year, are occasionally documented, the long-term effects through middle school and high school are either neutral and/or deleterious. And grade retention has emerged as one of the most powerful predictors of high school dropout."

Jimerson said Florida introduced many interventions along with retention and it has not yet been shown --- which all panelists agreed --- whether these other elements may have been the causes of the state's improved reading performance.

He noted that the other elements --- summer school, putting retained students with high-performing teachers, an intense reading focus in the classroom, progress monitoring, parent engagement --- have been proven to be effective.

"Whereas many of the other components in the Florida program are empirically based and laudable, retention is not, " he said.

Misgivings over retention have not ended the practice.

New data from U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights shows that 2.3 percent of all students in 7,000 districts --- which represent 85 percent of all children in U.S. public schools --- were retained at the close of the 2009-10 school year.

Only 1 percent of those students were in elementary or middle school, and most repeated kindergarten or the first grade. The federal data found retention highest among black and Hispanic students.

Retaining a student is costly. With the national per-pupil spending average at $10,700, the price tag for retaining 2.3 percent of the 50 million public school students exceeds $12 billion a year. That amount excludes the costs of remedial services for students or their delayed earnings from entering the job market a year later.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@redweather @class80olddog Most everyone is aware that there is a link between attendance and success, but the issue is what to do about it.  In the sixties, there were truancy officers that paid a visit to the parents' house and made threats of jail, but apparently that does not happen in today's world.  How do the schools deal with the attendance issue?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@MaureenDowney @class80olddog @redweather Thank you for the repost.  I was able to access back issues - supposedly up to 377 (I only went back 120).

By the way, have you sent my monthly stipend for posting on here yet?

(maybe I had better be careful with the jokes - some people on here can't tell a joke when it is obvious)

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@popcornular @AvgGeorgian


Pop - you do not need to post more facts. Just post your first ever fact. I will help you with the citation process if need be. "Me too" does not count.

class80olddog
class80olddog

I am all in favor (I have decided) of as much testing as the schools want to do.  Only one change - the number of instruction days would be 180 - testing would not be counted - so if you want 10 days of testing, you just have to make the school year 190 days.  Wonder how parents would like that?

class80olddog
class80olddog

They think it is a contradiction that the public lists standards as one of five problems but are skeptical of Common Core.  I see no contradiction.  It is, as other posters have noted, the way the question was asked. I would ask:

"Would you rather see new, more rigorous Common Core standards implemented but not enforced, or would you rather see enforcement of the existing basic standards?"

Wonder what the answer to THAT one would be?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady @class80olddog Yeah, unfortunately that is the sign of the times.  Coddle your children to death.  Hope there is never a world-changing event that puts a lot of selection pressure on the population - you will see a lot of deaths.  Sort of like Katrina.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@redweather @class80olddog Implement, but don't use the CC test, and don't enforce it - yes, a great improvement.

And then modify it to get rid of the "funny math" and History biases and...

bu2
bu2

@redweather @class80olddog 


But NCLB is not a fiasco.


It did what its primary purpose was-to make sure no sub-group of children was allowed to be ignored.  Poor children and special needs were ignored and hidden.  Now they can't be.


Whirled Peas
Whirled Peas

" In addition, Americans remain leery of vouchers; only 31 percent favor allowing students to attend private schools on the public tab"


It all depends how you phrase the question.  If you were to ask, "should people be able to chose the school their children attend?"  the answer is always a resounding "yes".  But a liberal always wants the government in charge of people's lives and will always ask the question in a warped way.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Whirled Peas What if you asked the question thusly:

"Would you favor allowing parents to 100% control where the educational dollars for their child is spent?"

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

I would prefer to see the questions asked in this poll with the actual results. Polls are easily manipulated to achieve the results desired by the sponsoring entity.


Here is a perfect example:

"A strong majority — about eight in 10 — of the U.S. public believes the effectiveness of their local public schools should be measured by how engaged the students are with classwork and by their level of hope for the future."


What the hell does "level of hope for the future" have to do with the effectiveness of schools?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Lee_CPA2 Yes, it doesn't matter if they can spell, use proper English, or be able to count change back - it only matters if they have "hope for the future".  I know in our business, we would prefer those with a "hope for the future" over those with basic skills. NOT!

waltbellamy
waltbellamy

"In its 47th Annual Poll of Public Attitudes toward Public Schools, the PDK/Gallup Poll released today found the recurring contradiction that while Americans harbor misgivings about public education in general, they give their local schools high marks."

That is not the case in DeKalb county

class80olddog
class80olddog

@redweather @waltbellamy You are right, redweather, bad parents = bad students.  Those parents probably LOVE those failing schools - no punishment for their child when he/she misbehaves, no punishment for poor attendance, and inflate the grades so all students get a diploma.  They only get worried when their kid cannot find a job, but they just blame it on "racism".

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@class80olddog @redweather @waltbellamy I think it is an enduring enigma that most parents DO report satisfaction with their child's school, no matter how "bad" it looks to outsiders.  It is generally "those other" schools that parents judge as "bad." This had been borne out in many, many surveys, to the mass puzzlement of many of us.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@redweather @class80olddog @waltbellamy That is true of all systems.  I am sure that there are good systems in APS that did not need to cheat in order to have good test scores - but they have been painted with the same brush.  I am mostly concerned with the failing school systems - whether they be DeKalb County or Cobb County - how do we get them "up to speed".  The good systems also don't have the issues of discipline, attendance, and social promotion that the failing systems do.  They don't have to do as much social promotion because they have good STUDENTS.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady @class80olddog @redweather @waltbellamy I remember a post of Maureen's from years ago where she chronicles her visit to a school.  She said that the spirit was upbeat, the students were full of confidence and cheerful, but when she looked at samples of the "best" writing posted on the bulletin board, it was atrocious.  Lots of "hope for the future" but not much in the way of mastery of employable skills.  I am sure the parents loved the school, also.