The Washington Post

Poll: What Americans say about public education

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As has been true in previous years, Americans give relatively high grades to the public schools in their own communities — this year 48 percent gave them a grade of an A or B, compared to 40 percent in 1992. But they give lower to grades to public schools in the nation as a whole.

And a majority of Americans say that young people should be required to stay in school until they are 18 — not 16 or 17, as they are now.

These are other issues were part of the 2012 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll of American attitudes toward public education, which has been conducted for 44 years.

Here are key results from the study (some results won’t add up to 100 percent because of rounding and weighted samples):

Do you believe common core standards would improve the quality of education in your community, decrease the quality of education in your community, or have no effect?

Improve the quality of education ...50%

Decrease the quality ...................... 8%

Have no effect ................................40%

Don’t know/refused...........................2%

There is a recognized academic achievement gap between white students and black and Hispanic students, with white students consistently outperforming black and Hispanic students. How important do you think it is to close this gap — very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not important at all?

Very/somewhat important .. 89%

Not too/not important at all ... 11%

Don’t know/refused .. 1%

Would you be willing or unwilling to pay more taxes to provide funds to improve the quality of the nation’s urban public schools?

Willing .......62%

Unwilling ...37%

Don’t know/refused .. 0%

Are you in favor of or opposed to providing free public education, school lunches, and other benefits to children of immigrants who are in the United States illegally?

Favor ... 41%

Oppose.. 58%

Don’t know/refused .. 1 percent

This same question was asked in 1995, when 28% where in favor, 67% opposed and 5% didn’t know or refused to answer.

Do you have trust and confidence in the men and women who are teaching children in the public schools?

Yes .. 71%

No... 27%

Don’t know/refused .. 2%

In your opinion, if the entrance requirements into a college teacher preparation program were more rigorous, would more effective teachers graduate from that college?

Yes ... 67%

No ... 29%

Don’tknow/refused .. 4%

Some states require that teacher evaluations include how well a teacher’s students perform on standardized tests. Do you favor or oppose this requirement?

Favor ....52%

Oppose.. 47%

Don’t know/refused .. 1%

Suppose you were voting solely on the basis of a desire to strengthen the public schools. Who would you vote for in the presidential election this November — Mitt Romney or Barack Obama?

Mitt Romney ... 44%

Barack Obama.. 49%

Don’t know/refused .. 8%

In your opinion, which is more important for the federal government to do in the next five years — balance the federal budget or improve the quality of the education system in the nation?

Balance the federal budget .. 60%

Improve the quality of education system ... 38%

Don’t know/refused .. 2%

Students are often given the grades A, B, C, D, and Fail to denote the quality of their work. Suppose the public schools themselves in your community were graded in the same way. What grade would you give the public schools here — A, B, C, D, or Fail?

A&B .. 48%

A ........12%

B .........36%

C .........31%

D ........ 13%

Fail ..... 4%

Don’t know/refused .. 4%

How about the public schools in the nation as a whole? What grade would you give the public schools nationally — A, B, C, D, or Fail?

A&B ..... 19%

A ......... 1%

B ..........18%

C ............ 47%

D ............ 23%

Fail .......... 7%

Don’t know/refused .. 4%

In each state, children are required to go to school until they reach a certain age. If you were the one to decide, what would be the age in this state?

14 or 15 years ... 2%

16 years ...........15%

17 years ...........17%

18 years ...........63%

As you may know, charter schools operate under a charter or contract that frees them from many of the state regulations imposed on public schools and permits them to operate independently. Do you favor or oppose the idea of charter schools?

Favor ... 66%

Oppose ..30%

Don’t know/refused .. 4%

(Note that this question doesn’t mention that charter schools are themselves public.)

Some states are considering laws that allow parents to petition to remove the leadership and staff at failing schools. Do you favor or oppose such laws in your own state?

Favor ......70%

Oppose .. 28%

Don’t know/refused .. 2%

Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?

Favor .... 44%

Oppose.. 55%

Don’t know/refused .. 1%

(Note that the question doesn’t mention the word “voucher.”)

In your opinion, should bullying prevention be part of the school’s curriculum?

Yes ... 78%

No .... 22%

How much can you rely on these findings?

The poll is a scientifically based survey of 1,002 Americans who are 18 years and older. The report says: “For findings based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is 4 percentage points; in the case of subsamples, the margin of error is higher. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.”


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Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.

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