Americans said a lack of funding is the biggest problem facing local public schools and there’s too much emphasis on testing in the PDK/Gallup poll on education released earlier this week.
The 47th annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools national phone survey of 1,001 American adults and a web survey of 3,449 adults was done in May 2015. The web survey let PDK and Gallup examine in greater detail responses from different racial/ethnic groups for the first time.
Americans’ responses indicate they pay closer attention to details than policymakers might think. Here are some highlights.
Infographic by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews
Lack of Money
For the 10th consecutive year, Americans said the lack of financial support is the biggest problem facing local schools (23 percent). It has been among the top concerns in every poll since 1969.
Seven percent of survey respondents were also concerned about standards/quality of education 7 percent, 6 percent about lack of discipline/more control of behaviors, 5 percent about overcrowded schools, 3 percent on testing/regulations, and 2 percent about parents/lack of support/lack of interest.
Grades for Schools
While just 21 percent of Americans give public schools in the nation as a while an A or B grade, 72 percent give the school their child attends an A or a B grade.
When asked what percentage of public school students in the United States receive a high quality education today, Americans said they believe that 26- to 50 percent of students do, according to the poll.
Instead of focusing on standardized testing, 78 percent of Americans said they believe that how engaged students are with their classwork and their level of hope for the future are more important measures of the effectiveness of public schools.
Too much testing
Sixty-four percent of Americans said there is too much emphasis on standardized testing in their community’s public schools.
This is a stark change from poll results in 1970, when 75 percent of Americans said they wanted students in their local schools to take national tests to compare their achievement with students in other communities.
In 2015, just 24 percent of Americans said knowing how students in community schools compared to students in other countries is important, and 18 percent said comparing local students’ achievement with students in other districts or states is important.
This year, Americans ranked examples of student’s work and written observations by the teacher as better ways to measure student’s progress than standardized testing.
Sixty-nine percent of Americans thought the percentage of students who graduate from high school was important. While 38 percent rated the percentage of graduates attending college and 27 percent rated getting a job right after high school as very important. Test scores ranked last as a measure of school effectiveness with 14 percent of Americans rating them very important.
Opt out? Not my kid
Americans split on whether parents should have the right to excuse their child from taking a standardized test. Forty-four percent of Americans said should not be allowed to excuse their child from an exam, while 41 percent said parents should be allowed.
Yet, a majority of Americans, 59 percent, said they would not excuse their own child from a standardized test.
The percentage of Americans against using standardized test scores in teacher evaluations dropped to 55 percent in 2015, down from 61 percent in 2014.
Improving public schools
When asked what ideas are most important to improve local public schools, the quality of teachers ranked highest at 95 percent, expectations for what students should learn followed at 67 percent, how much money schools have to spend came next at 45 percent and testing ranked lowest at 19 percent.
Yet, one-third of African-Americans and Latinos rated testing very important. Twenty-eight percent of African-Americans, more than double the percentage of Whites, said students’ scores on standardized tests are very important to measure schools’ effectiveness.
Who holds schools accountable?
Forty-six percent of Americans said states should hold schools accountable, pay for schools, determine the amount of testing and decide what teaching method and materials should be used in schools.
Twenty-six percent of Americans said local authorities should hold schools accountable, 23 percent believe the federal government should play a role and four percent said they don’t know who should hold schools accountable.
While 64 percent of Americans approve of charter schools and school choice, they don’t want to use public money to pay for private school.
Fifty-seven percent of Americans oppose vouchers, which allow parents to send students to a private schools at public expense.
Thirty-one percent of survey respondents favored vouchers and 12 percent said they don’t know where they stand on the issue.
Americans overwhelmingly said all children should be required to have certain vaccinations before they are allowed to attend public schools in their community.
Eighty-four percent supported students being vaccinated, while 9 percent did not and 7 percent said they don’t know where they stand on the issue.