Nation Split on Purpose of Education, Poll Reveals

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

A recent national poll has found close to half of adults in the United States believe that public education should be focused on academics, while others suggest the main goal should be to prepare students for future careers or to be good citizens.

When asked to choose between three options, 48% of participants said they believe schools should focus on academics, while 26% said the focus should be placed on helping students to become good citizens, and 25% would like to see public education preparing students for future careers.  Meanwhile, 4% did not have an opinion.

Just 25% of survey participants would rate schools in the United States with an A or B grade, although 48% said their own public school district deserved one of these two grades.  In addition, 50% of parents said they were deeply involved in their child’s school, while 32% reported being somewhat involved, and the remaining participants felt they were even less involved, reports Theresa Harrington for EdSource.

The results are part of the 48th annual Phi Delta Kappa International “Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.”  While Gallup had partnered in previous years to release the results, this year’s results were produced by Langer Research Associates of New York.

“The American public does not agree on a single purpose for public education,” noted Joshua P. Starr, the chief executive officer of PDK International. “And that’s despite the emphasis on academic achievement of the past 16 years. This tells me that the standards and test-based reforms of the Bush and Obama administrations have addressed only part of what the public wants.”

Although questions pertaining to public education have been included on polls since 1969, the questions included vary from year to year.  The number one problem facing schools has been considered to be lack of money or financial support by respondents since 2000.  This year, that concern was listed by 19% of participants in an open-ended question.

In addition, 53% said they would approve of an increase in property taxes if it meant improvements for schools.  If this were to happen, 34% said they would like to see the additional revenue go to help teachers, as 18% suggested hiring more educators and 14% said teachers deserve raises, writes Valerie Strauss for The Washington Post.

Poll results also found 59% opposing students being allowed to opt out of standardized testing, while 37% said they support it.  Last year, 41% said parents should have the right to opt their children out of such testing.

As a replacement for the No Child Left Behind Act, the Every Student Succeeds Act requires 95% of students in grades three through eight as well as one year of high school to participate in annual standardized tests in English and math.  However, a number of states, such as California, allow parents to opt their children out of the tests.

In terms of failing schools, 84% said the schools should remain open, while 14% said they should be closed.  On the topic of improving schools, 68% said more career-technical or skill-based classes should be added, while 21% supported an increase to honors or advanced placement classes.

Conducted by phone interview, participants included 1,221 adults from all 50 states last April and May. All surveys were conducted in English. Individual state results were not made available.