Triple Crown Of Education Opinion Research

This is poll week in American education.  AP kicked it off with their poll over the weekend, PDK/Gallup releases today (pdf), and Education Next dropped their now annual survey yesterday afternoon (pdf).  Some thoughts on all three:

- Advocates want to gravitate toward the one that best supports their view.  So the unions put out pressers on PDK but are largely silent on AP and Ed Next.  Reformers, meanwhile, like Ed Next and AP. In fact, all three polls have strengths and weaknesses, assume different degrees of prior knowledge, provide different context to respondents, and use different terms. So the best way to consume these polls is to look across all three for areas of convergence and divergence and where the diverge figure out why, and how much how the question is being asked likely affects the response. Question wording matters a lot, especially when the public or parents are being asked to weigh-in on fine grained issues they may not have a great deal of knowledge about. Also, pay attention to who is being asked what, parents or the public.

- The lack of awareness about Common Core is getting a lot of headlines – and should worry Common Core supporters given the politics. But it’s worth asking how unusual this level of awareness really is for a policy change like this this, in education or more generally. Sure, today No Child Left Behind has almost universal name recognition. Yet that’s following a decade of heated debate about the law and three presidential races where it was a key, if not the key, education issue. The numbers didn’t look that way in 2000 or 2002, and even now name recognition doesn’t translate into an understanding of the policy.  In other words, the awareness levels have implications for the politics (see below) but are not especially anomalous.

- There are some interesting questions buried in all three surveys. In particular, PDK asked about school closures and disaggregated by race, the results are important.  PDK also found that an overwhelming majority of parents and the public think home-school students should be able to play on school sports teams.

- My take? Clearly there is a backlash against some of today’s reform policies. Movement on some questions in the PDK survey across the last few years makes that clear. But it’s not nearly as large a backlash as some would like too see or claim.  The Ed Next poll remains very solid on probing on some of this and AP did a nice job in the same vein via a lot of questions – resources matter! And, looking across all the questions it’s pretty clear there is broad support for general reform ideas at a high-level, for instance removing low-performing teachers (most teachers support this, too) and standards and accountability. Specific terms or question framing engender different results but the concepts enjoy support.  All that said, given that these issues are rarely fought out among the general public but instead in venues where advocacy groups and elites hold disproportionate sway the news here is not great for reformers.  The public is favorably disposed toward change but is not an army of Davids on this and isn’t especially tuned in anyway.  Interests groups are.  Common Core or not, that’s math politicians understand.

For more check out: Joy Resmovits, Emma Brown, Stephanie Simon, Theresa Harrington, and Paul Peterson. Update: Stephen Sawchuk here.

3 Responses to “Triple Crown Of Education Opinion Research”

  1. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    “…the news here is not great for reformers.”

    And that’s good news. The American public will always support the people who are willing to be in our classrooms. Citizens are not stupid.

    When schoolteachers decide to have reform, then we will have it. Until then, nothing will happen without the cooperation and involvement of the people who deliver instruction to the nation’s children. That much should be obvious to everyone. Yes, “policy” might change, but what actually happens in the classroom will depend on decisions made by Miss Jones. If she doesn’t like the “policy” she has 1001 ways to subvert it.

    The individual who truly wants to improve education for children would be wise to gain the confidence and cooperation of the nation’s teachers.9

  2. PhillipMarlowe Says:

    EducationNext (no surprise here) sounds like the Romney campaign:
    1. A 2009 government survey ranked the math skills of 15-year-olds in 34 industrialized countries. What is your best guess of where American 15-year-olds ranked on this test?
    10. As you may know, many states permit the formation of charter schools, which are publicly funded but are not managed by the local school board. These schools are expected to meet promised objectives, but are exempt from many state regulations. Do you support or oppose the formation of charter schools?
    15. In some parts of the country, a majority of parents whose children attend a low-performing traditional public school can sign a petition requiring the district to convert the school into a charter. What do you think of this policy?
    23. Teachers with tenure cannot be dismissed unless a school district follows detailed procedures. Some say that tenure protects teachers from being fired for arbitrary reasons. Others say that it makes it too difficult to replace ineffective teachers. We want to know what you think of tenure. Do you favor or oppose offering tenure to teachers?
    32. As you may know, all states are currently deciding whether or not to adopt the Common Core standards in reading and math. If adopted, these standards would be used to hold the state’s schools accountable for their performance. Do you support or oppose the adoption of the Common Core standards in your state?

    There’s very little difference between these questions are ones like “Some people think black people can’t…”

  3. An educator Says:

    I have been on a quest to bring creativity back into the classroom since I was exposed to the exemptions that many charter schools get. I agree with both comments as well as the idea that the polls themselves are being politicized. But I think it is indicative of what the real answer is, conversation. Both the community and the practitioners involved in education need to talk and understand each other better. The Common Core is a great example of this divide. There is a tone of information on the CC out there but it is coming from different sources in different ways and in many places is working to confuse people rather than enlighten them. Additionally as a teacher myself I know that not all teachers are seeking to do what is absolutely best, many have their own family and personal needs in mind as well, as they totally should, but it degrades their ability to be the sole advocates for education. We need a balance, we need teachers advocating for themselves just as much as we need reformers advocating for improvement. We just need these two groups to talk rather than argue.

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