School reformers like to talk about giving parents “choices” in public education because that’s what parents want. But a new national survey says that most parents with students in public schools want something different. The two big questions are: What do and don’t parents want? And do reformers care what parents want when it turns out parents don’t actually want what they are offering?
The poll, commissioned by the American Federation of Teachers and conducted by Hart Research Associates, says that most parents want strong neighborhood schools — not choices of schools for their children to attend. They don’t want public money diverted to private-school vouchers, or low-performing schools to be closed, or resources being taken away from traditional public schools to be used for public charter schools, the poll says.
The issue that is probably the most troubling to parents is an over-emphasis on standardized testing, with 59 percent saying their child has experienced anxiety or worry about taking a state standardized assessment. In fact, most parents reject the bulk of the education reform agenda.
Here were some of the results of the poll, which a spokesman from Hart, a Democratic polling firm, said is nationally representative of parents with children in public schools, within a few percentage points:
*Fifty-eight percent of parents polled said they view public schools as the single most important institution for the future of their community and of their nation.
*The two biggest problems facing public schools are too much testing and too little funding — both at 32 percent. Third on the list is large class sizes (23 percent), fourth is lack of support for teachers (17 percent) and fifth, poor teacher quality (16 percent).
*Fifty-seven percent said testing has taken away too much time from teaching and learning.
*Sixty-four percent said standardized tests given by their state do not accurately measure student achievement.
*Sixty-eight percent of parents are satisfied with their children’s public schools, including 66 percent of parents with children in urban schools and 62 percent of parents with incomes under $50,000.
*Seventy-six percent oppose reduced funding for traditional public schools to increase spending on public charter schools.
As to the second question – Do reformers actually care want parents want when it turns out parents don’t want what they are offering? — it’s safe to say not so much.