PDK poll offers answers but leaves questions

Parents and the public favor racially and socioeconomically diverse schools, and they don’t put much stock in using standardized tests to measure school quality. At least that’s what they told the pollsters who conducted the 49th annual Phi Delta Kappa Poll of the Public’s Attitudes toward the Public Schools.

But if that’s the case, why do so many affluent parents get up in arms over proposals to desegregate their neighborhood schools. Why do we accept the idea that property values are higher where schools are whiter and test scores are better?

Are the poll respondents just giving answers that make them sound reasonable? Or do a majority really embrace values of tolerance and diversity. As always, the poll provides a lot of information but leaves plenty of questions for us to debate.

Results of the PDK poll were released this week. On diversity, it found that 70 percent of parents say they would prefer for their child to attend a racially diverse school, and 61 percent prefer an economically mixed school. A majority of the public said racial and economic diversity is good for schools.

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PDK Poll is annual reality check

Count on the annual Phi Delta Kappa Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools to provide a reality check for those of us who spend our lives caught up in education policy debates.

It suggests that many people aren’t consumed with testing, school choice, accountability and the other usual themes of policy arguments. They’re more interested in down-to-earth stuff, like what schools are teaching, how they’re funded and how they treat families.

For example, fewer than half the respondents to the 48th annual PDK Poll, released this week, think schools should focus primarily on academic skills – when nearly all the reform proposals of recent years assume that boosting academics is Goal No. 1. Some 25 percent said schools should emphasize preparing students for jobs, and 26 percent said the priority should be producing good citizens.

And when respondents were asked how best to improve schools, the one approach with clear support was boosting career and technical education. There’s not much support for bolstering honors or advanced classes. Continue reading