Last week I dissected the annual Education Next poll a bit, and today the newest Phil Delta Kappa/Gallup poll on the state of education is out. Let’s take a look at several of the same topics we examined in the EdNext poll, shall we?
Last week’s survey featured questions with several different wordings about Core backing, and while they all showed the Core hemorrhaging support over the last few years, percentages approving ranged from 49 percent to 39 percent. PDK/Gallup asked just one question about Core support, and it had very different wording from any used by EdNext, focusing not on the intention of the Core – “accountability” – or describing the Core as “standards for reading and math that are the same across states,” but asking if respondents approve of “having the teachers in your community use the Common Core State Standards to guide what they teach.” In response, 54 percent appeared to oppose the Core and only 24 percent supported it. It’s an odd way to ask about Core support – how about just ask if people “support or oppose the Common Core” – but it is unquestionably true both that an intended effect of the Core is to guide what is taught, and that this is more bad news for the Core.
EdNext found what I thought was unexpectedly (and discouragingly) high support for having Washington in charge of “setting educational standards for what children should know,” but still very low approval of federal direction over labeling schools as “failing” and dictating how to fix such schools. PDK/Gallup did not ask directly about setting standards, but did ask which level of government should be “holding schools accountable” and “determining the right amount of testing.” What they found was in line with what EdNext found: Only about 1 in 5 respondents want Washington in charge, with most wanting states and districts in control. Maybe the Constitution does still count.
Constant standardized testing, the Common Core, federal strong-arming, and possibly numerous other irritants have seemingly spurred a revolt against standardized testing, most visibly seen in the “opt-out” movement in New York and elsewhere. Both the EdNext and PDK/Gallup polls suggest this movement comprises a minority – though a pretty large and vocal one – with around a third of parents in the PDK-Gallup poll saying they would “excuse” their child from “one or more standardized tests,” and almost the exact same percentage of EdNext parents saying they support allowing parents to opt their kids out of standardized math and reading tests. Obviously these are somewhat different questions – would you exempt your kids, versus allowing other parents to exempt theirs – but I’m guessing the one-third in both polls are basically the same group of people.
Interestingly, the PDK/Gallup pollsters prominently conclude that “Americans endorse choice,” but the only question they ask about private school choice is the one they love to use that consistently gets the most negative response: “Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?” This and a somewhat similarly worded question used by EdNext found about 58 percent of people in opposition and about 30 percent in support. But EdNext asked several other questions, including some stating a goal to provide people with “a wider choice” which polled much better. And PDK/Gallup didn’t ask at all about the reigning choice champ, scholarship tax credits, which are quite popular, perhaps because they are about providing wider choice and, unlike the connotation of “at public expense,” taxpayers get to choose whether or not they fund them. PDK/Gallup found higher support for charter schools than did EdNext, with question wording again likely heavily at play, but both found robust approval, from 51 percent to 64 percent of respondents.
In addition to these topics, the PDK/Gallup poll delves into school grades, approval of President Obama’s “support” for public schools, and more. So just as I asked for Education Next, why are you still here? Go read the PDK/Gallup poll!