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.

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PDK poll: Charters yes, vouchers no

Seventy percent of Americans oppose the idea of vouchers – publicly funded tuition subsidies for parents who send their children to private schools. On the other hand, 68 percent support the concept of charter schools, and a majority think the U.S. should have more of them.

Those are among the findings of the 2013 PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. The poll is conducted each year and is sponsored by Bloomington, Ind.-based Phil Delta Kappa International.

The voucher result is especially interesting. PDK says it’s the strongest opposition since the poll began asking about vouchers, over 20 years ago. Just last year, only 55 percent opposed vouchers. Voucher supporters will argue that PDK is primarily an organization of public-school teachers and its results can’t be trusted. But the question in the poll – “Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense’’ – is a straightforward and accurate description of what vouchers do.

And the poll also finds strong and growing support for charter schools, something that may not please public education advocates. This suggests charter schools are here to stay, and maybe we need to judge schools on whether they promote opportunity for all children, not how they’re organized.

Another interesting result is that 58 percent of respondents were against using students’ scores on standardized tests to evaluate teachers. That’s a reversal from what PDK found just last year. And it runs counter to the support for test-based teacher evaluations in a recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey of parents. Continue reading