PDK/Gallup Poll: Views differ by race

People of color have a different view of their community schools than do white people. That’s an important take-away from the 2015 PDK/Gallup Poll, released Sunday.

For example, asked to rate the schools in their own community, 51 percent of poll respondents gave local schools an A or B. But only 23 percent of African-American parents and 31 percent of Hispanic students gave their local schools an A or B.

Maybe that’s to be expected: Blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites to live in economically struggling communities with under-resourced schools. But for years, the PDK/Gallup Poll has highlighted the fact that a majority of parents think local schools deserve an A or B – the message being that most parents are satisfied with local public schools. It turns out that’s only partly true.

And African-Americans differ from whites on other topics and issues: They are:

  • More likely to think test scores are an important measure of school effectiveness.
  • Less sympathetic to the “opt-out” movement and less likely to exempt their own children from testing.
  • More supportive of having schools teach the Common Core State Standards.

The PDK/Gallup Poll tends to produce similar headlines every year: Americans rate their local schools highly, they favor charter schools and choice but are skeptical of testing and accountability schemes, etc. But this year’s poll added a web-based component that let the pollsters break down some results by race and ethnicity and political party loyalty. That gives a better picture of the public’s attitudes.

Another nice addition: A guide (page 16 of the report) to using the poll to create local surveys and organize community discussions of what’s important in education.

Too much testing

The headline on the poll report is “Testing doesn’t measure up for Americans.” That’s accurate, and it’s a significant finding. The poll reveals that it’s not just the most vocal teachers and parents who think the country’s testing mania has gone too far.

“64 percent of Americans and a similar proportion of public school parents said there is too much emphasis on standardized testing in the public schools in their community with just 7 percent believing there’s not enough,” the report says.

Overall, respondents ranked test scores last among a list of factors that show whether a school is effective, behind student engagement in learning, hopefulness about the future, graduation rates, enrollment in college and getting a job after school.

Obvious question: If the public has soured on testing, will state legislators dial back their demands for test-based accountability of schools and teachers?

The public was split, nearly evenly, on whether parents should be able to opt their kids out of taking standardized tests. Perhaps surprisingly, nearly a third said they would exempt their own children from taking one or more standardized tests.

Mixed views on school choice

In keeping with polls in previous years, the 2015 poll finds widespread support for charter schools and the concept of public school choice in general.

Sixty-four percent favor charter schools. And nearly two-thirds support intra-district open enrollment: letting parents send their children to any school within the district where they live. But only 31 percent favor private school vouchers, which are backed by a majority of Indiana legislators.

There’s little difference by race or ethnicity in answers to those questions.

You can read other takes on the PDK/Gallup Poll in Education Week (which also covers the more reform-friendly Education Next poll), Washington Post Answer Sheet and Diane Ravitch’s blog (which includes the National Education Association response).

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